A new law passed in the Suffolk County Legislature on Tuesday, Dec. 18 allows for the protection of land for open space used in the Mastic-Shirley Conservation Area. The law, sponsored by Legis. Rudy Sunderman, would prevent demolished, vacant homes from being rebuilt and sold at auction if they fall in the conservation area.
In Suffolk County, when a home is repossessed by the county for failure to pay taxes, workers will repair the home for sale and put it up for auction to new buyers. This law stops that process after the demolition stage to help protect the wetlands near the southern portion of Mastic and Shirley.
Sunderman told the Long Island Advance in a phone interview Thursday that there was minimal area currently up for this program, but the law will help both with a protection of the environment and a method to mitigate flood risks. Sunderman said the wetlands are marshes that act as natural sponges and allow water to soak up when flooding takes place. An increase in wetland space diverts water from public structures and homes.
“This whole thing is to protect the wetlands,” he said.
The legislator added that the law is actually a combined effort with Brookhaven Town, which has taken down over a dozen homes this fall in Mastic, Mastic Beach and Shirley. Sunderman said the town will continue to perform demolitions through an inter-municipal agreement. The county also has the option to give properties over to the town when necessary, but all properties within the conservation area must stay as open space, despite who is the owner.
A similar law was passed in September to appropriate funding from the U.S Department of Agriculture Natural Resources and Conservation Services for improving lands in the Mastic Shirley Conservation Area. The area was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy, which allowed some funds to be used to mitigate the damage and help improve infrastructure.