Ghent neighbors seek deal to limit local mining

GHENT–The town Planning Board will hold a hearing Wednesday, June 27 on the Molinari Gravel Mine proposal. But by then, the parties on both sides of the issue may have reached an agreement.

At the last Planning Board meeting May 3, Ghent town attorney Ted Guterman said that although the town has had two public hearings on the subject already, officials should hold one more so that the board’s newest member, Gary Ocean, could hear from the public. “That’s the only possible grounds for appeal,” Mr. Guterman told the board, referring to a case that has been in litigation on and off for several years.

The gravel mine application process began in 2006, when Vincent and Lisa Molinari first tried to secure a special use permit from the Ghent Planning Board to mine their property in order to remove enough gravel and sand to create a 12-acre lake. They reduced their request to six acres and received a special use permit from the board that year, but neighbors successfully challenged the permit in court, where state Supreme Court Justice Patrick J. McGrath found that the mine and related trucking activity would violate the town’s highway design standards.

The town later amended its road standards related to mining and the Molinaris resubmitted their application for the permit along with supporting statements from the state Department of Environmental Conservation, Ghent Highway Superintendent Michael Losa, Town Engineer Ray Jurkowski, and the DEC issued them a mining permit.

But the Planning Board denied them a local permit, so the Molinaris went to court. This time, in a decision dated March 28, 2012, Judge McGrath found that the board lacked a substantive basis for its denial and called the decision arbitrary and capricious. The court referred the case back to the Ghent Planning Board.

Mining is allowed under Ghent’s zoning code, which was updated in 2004. The Molinari property, located on Carpenter Road, sits within a mining overlay district.

Dewayne A. Powell, who owns a house on Carpenter Road, said neighbors are working on a settlement with the Molinaris that would set limits on the amount of gravel the couple will remove and establish a date when the mining would end.

The last Planning Board hearing was delayed, he said, to allow time for the negotiations.

Residents of Carpenter Road have expressed concern that the trucking would undermine the rural character that the town’s comprehensive plan strives to protect and lower property values. They also worry about a sharp turn in the road and a 23 foot wide bridge that cannot accommodate two trucks at one time. The road and surrounding lands are home to several horse farms and a number of restored homes.

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