Cover Story: Southold trash fight heads to court

The owner of Go Green Sanitation has several court dates in his future to answer zoning and environmental citations, but only one is in Southold and that seems to be the least of his concerns.

Southampton Town code enforcement officials raided company owner Frank Fisher’s Flanders home on Friday, March 11, and later accused Mr. Fisher of operating an illegal refuse transfer station there. Similar charges have been filed against him by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

In Southold, Mr. Fisher was ticketed on March 1 for one count of violating the town code ban on carting away trash before separating out cans, bottles and other recyclable materials. Mr. Fisher was to have answered that violation in town Justice Court on Monday, but the case was postponed.

Earlier this week Mr. Fisher told The Suffolk Times the dispute “is getting so blown out of proportion it’s not even funny.”
He said the Southampton charges will have a “zero effect” on his business. “We just stored containers on the property. Big deal. Just give me the ticket,” Mr. Fisher said.

His Go Green garbage hauling business has drawn the ire of Southold officials, who claim it violates the town’s recycling code. In advertising his service, which costs less than what other carters charge, Mr. Fisher says his customers don’t have to separate out cans, glass and plastic.

Southold Town accuses Mr. Fisher of one violation of town code 233-3 2C, which prohibits carting away trash that contains recyclable materials. While the potential penalties are rather light, just $100 per offense, the town could seek an injunction to stop the company from picking up commingled trash.

In Southampton, the town and DEC are pursuing separate charges alleging that Mr. Fisher operated an illegal garbage transfer station at his home on Priscilla Avenue in Flanders. Town code enforcement officials, police and fire marshals entered the property with a search warrant Friday morning, according to Southampton officials.

They reported finding 15 roll-off dumpsters, some as large as 40 cubic yards. Mr. Fisher is also accused of placing receptacles on adjacent town-owned lands.

“It wasn’t just an illegal transfer station either,” Southampton Councilwoman Nancy Graboski is quoted as saying in a press release. “Residents using town parkland would have to contend with a masonry business, landscaping operation and a makeshift carting facility.”

Mr. Fisher’s 1.08-acre property is zoned for a two-family house.

“Egregious property misuse drastically impacts a neighborhood’s quality of life and surrounding environment,” Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said in the release.

Formal charges have yet to be filed in the Southampton cases. A call to Southampton code enforcement chief investigator David Betts was not returned by presstime.

Officials added that Mr. Fisher had agreed to bring his property into compliance. He says he now leases commercial property in Riverhead.

“I stored a couple of dumpsters. Big deal,” said Mr. Fisher. “They didn’t uncover what they thought they were uncovering. All they found out was I’m a hardworking guy. They didn’t have to come with guns blazing and search warrants.”

The DEC said it had launched an investigation into Mr. Fisher’s property in late December. On Feb. 24, the agency ticketed Fisher Carting of Southampton for allegedly operating a solid waste collection facility without a permit. While fines can reach $7,500 per violation plus $1,500 for each day a violation continues, the initial DEC effort focused on ending the violations. According to the DEC, Mr. Fisher failed to contact agency staff regarding his ticket and that prompted a second visit by environmental conservation police.

He was then served with a criminal ticket, the DEC said, with potential fines of up to $15,000 per day.

In a DEC release, regional director Peter Scully said, “This investigation, along with enforcement actions taken by the Town of Southampton in this case, should send a very strong signal to those who would consider breaking environmental laws for personal gain that they had better think twice.”

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