Ruling fans dispute over Yaphank range
October 18, 2011 by PATRICK WHITTLE /
A State Supreme Court judge's ruling that Brookhaven's noise ordinance is constitutional has fanned the long-standing dispute between the town and the owners of a Yaphank shooting range.
Brookhaven officials say Justice Joseph Farneti's ruling, issued earlier this month, will allow the town to serve Suffolk County Trap, Skeet & Sporting Clays with noise violations.
But range operator Mark Wroobel and his attorney, Andrew Crabtree of Melville, said town officials have misinterpreted Farneti's decision.
They said Farneti's ruling is not final and only says the noise ordinance is generally constitutional -- not necessarily constitutional in the shooting range's case.
County Attorney Christine Malafi concurred: "This decision upheld the constitutionality of the town's noise ordinance, but it did not say the ordinance applies to the county-owned trap & skeet facility -- that remains an open issue," said Malafi.
Town officials, led by Supervisor Mark Lesko, announced at a news conference Tuesday that they plan to begin citing Wroobel for violating the 65 decibel limit, which some residents say happens often. The violations carry fines up to $250 per incident.
"Believe me, we will be enforcing our noise ordinance, and we will enforce it every two hours," said Councilwoman Connie Kepert.
The town and Suffolk County Trap, Skeet & Sporting Clays have been in court since 2007 over the noise ordinance, which Wroobel says unfairly infringes on his ability to run the business. Wroobel said the dispute stems from complaints by a vocal minority of neighbors. "A few neighbors don't like the noise when they bought a house next to the range," Wroobel said.
The lawsuit is ongoing, Crabtree said. No court date has been set, but both sides are expected to file new motions soon.
The noise issue is part of a larger dispute over whether the range should be located on Gerard Road at Southaven County Park. Town officials have repeatedly asked Suffolk County officials to move the range, which pays annual fees -- sometimes more than $40,000 -- to the county. Brookhaven officials have cited environmental and noise concerns, and the range's proximity to a residential neighborhood.
Wroobel, who said the site has served as a commercial gun range since the 1960s, has refuted residents' complaints.