Greenport residents voice concern over Exxon Mobil land deal

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Village trustee Chris Kempner.

Some Village Board members and local residents expressed concern over a pending land deal between Exxon Mobil, Inc. and the Peconic Land Trust.

Last month, the trust agreed to accept a donation from Exxon Mobil of 2.6 acres fronting Greenport Harbor. The surplus land, valued at $1.4 million, will be left untouched for passive recreation.

The parcel, located at the end of Fourth Street, is a former bulk fuel storage terminal that first became operational in the 1920s. All the structures were demolished in the 1990s. Since then, homeless people have been known to live in tents there.

During a public hearing Wednesday night on the oil company’s conservation easement application, Village Trustee Chris Kempner said while she likes the idea of preserving the property, she’s concerned that pollution is still lingering on the site even though the property was remediated about a decade ago.

“I’m still unclear of what’s there,” she said.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation has said an environmental investigation ended after the site was officially closed in July 2010.

The agency determined that any traces of oil products remaining would break down naturally and said tests of wells on adjacent properties show no traces of petroleum-related compounds.

Peconic Land Trust spokesman Stephen Searl said his group plans to conduct an environmental review, even though the property has been deemed clean.

“Any ongoing cleanup efforts would be Exxon Mobil’s responsibility,” he said.

Village Mayor David Nyce said if the deal is approved, then the village would be responsible of enforcing local laws and the town would be responsible of making sure Peconic is following the easement agreement, which only allows passive recreation uses.

Mr. Nyce has said the village decided to partner with Southold in handling the oil company’s conservation easement application since the village doesn’t have those types of laws on its books.

While Exxon Mobil plans to donate the land, many residents described the deal as a “tax break” for the oil company because the property will no longer be on the tax roll since the Peconic Land Trust is a not-for-profit group.

Annually, the village would lose nearly $3,000 and Southold Town’s tax income would drop about $3,300, and the Greenport School District could lose about $16,000, officials said.

“If it’s going to come off the tax roll, then something should at least be given to the school district,” resident Gary Charters said during the meeting.

The Village Board adjourned the public hearing to May 29.

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