Ancram deal: take a little off the top​

ANCRAM—At its November 4 meeting, the Planning Board unanimously approved a controversial plan to remove 20,000 cubic yards of gravel from a farm field over a period of 15 months.

Fred Schneeberger’s May 5 application was initially listed as a site plan review for the excavation of 25,000 cubic yards of gravel for the purpose of removing a knoll to reduce the slope and make the terrain safer for the operation of farm machinery. The site is in a field on the east side of Route 22 just north of White House Crossing Road in the town’s Scenic Corridor Overlay Zone (SCOZ).

Mr. Schneeberger, owner/operator of G & S Excavating, Inc., in Ancramdale, acted on behalf of John Langdon, a Copake farmer who leases the 108 acres on which the knoll is located.

Anthony Palumbo is the landowner. He also owns the Palumbo Block Company, Inc., in Dover Plains, Dutchess County, which is a supplier of concrete products. The gravel removed from the field will be hauled by truck to Mr. Palumbo’s facility.

Mr. Palumbo applied to the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) for a permit to operate a 73-acre gravel mine on the property previously, but was turned down.

Mr. Langdon has been farming the land for about 20 years, alternately growing soybean and feed corn.

Project opponents, many of whom are residents of the Boston Corners area and project neighbors, repeatedly stressed that the applicant must provide “substantive evidence that the project has to be necessary to farm operation” in order for it to be permitted in the SCOZ, an area so designated to “preserve the scenic beauty along New York State Route 22 and the Harlem Valley for the enjoyment of residents, commuters, recreational users and tourists.”

Noise, truck traffic and the visual impact on the landscape were also included among opponents’ objections.

In response to opponents’ suggestions that a lesser amount of material could be removed from the field to accomplish the same purpose, as well as maintain the landscape’s rolling hills character, the applicant revised his proposal to request permission to remove 5,000 cubic yards less gravel (now 20,000 instead of 25,000) and submitted an updated map profile of the slope when the lesser amount is removed.

‘It is not considered a mining operation.’

John Ingram, chairman

Ancram Planning Board

Based on the advice of the Planning Board counsel, attorney John Lyons, Planning Board Chairman John Ingram told Mr. Schneeberger at the September 2 meeting to fill in missing data on the Short Environmental Assessment Form (EAF). This would mention the wetlands on the property, delineations, setbacks and buffers. Mr. Ingram noted that counsel also recommended that the applicant develop a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) and obtain a SWPPP permit from the DEC due to the disturbance the project will create. Mr. Ingram told The Columbia Paper by email in response to subsequent questions that counsel also “advised that there should be a special use permit in conjunction with the abbreviated site plan review.”

Mr. Ingram said at the August meeting he was going to consult counsel about whether a special use permit was needed because there was disagreement between members over whether the project was a gravel mine, which requires a special use permit or an excavation which does not. Counsel deemed the special use permit was necessary.

Mr. Ingram’s email said the Schneeberger project is “excavation in aid of agricultural activities which does not require a DEC permit. It is not considered a mining operation.”

At the November 4 meeting, Mr. Ingram said all the additional items the board had asked the applicant to provide had been submitted.

During an abbreviated public hearing on only the new or revised information associated with the application, Carol Falcetti, a member of the citizens’ opposition group, told the board she believed there was a way to satisfy the farmer by making the slope less steep and at the same time preserve the SCOZ.

She suggested a “less invasive” approach would be to take the top soil off the top and set it aside, then bulldoze the gravel off into the valley and replace the top soil. She said that plan would reduce the slope steepness and fill in the bottom. She also called on the board to deny the permit pending a review by an expert to provide proof that there is no other way except by mining the gravel to mitigate the slope.

The public hearing was closed after 10 minutes and Mr. Ingram moved that the application be considered an unlisted action. He called for a motion to approve the application pending the approval of a resolution yet to be written by counsel.

All members voted in favor.

The resolution is to be circulated ahead of the December meeting so members can review it and vote on it at the December meeting.

To contact Diane Valden email

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