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Proposed mining overlay district discussed in Sardinia

BY: Jeff Martin | November 16, 2012

SARDINIA — A second public hearing regarding a proposed mining overlay district within the town of Sardinia will be held at 6 p.m. on Dec. 13.

The proposal, approved by the town’s planning board, would create an overlay district that includes areas on Allen, Genesee, Hand and Savage roads and Route 16.

Gernatt Asphalt Products has been the initiating company behind the proposal, which, according to company Vice President Ken Ziccarelli, would help preserve approximately 175 jobs and “push the company into the future.”

Gernatt’s attorney, Peter Sorgi, said the proposal would help the company “remain strong and competitive and also give land owners within the proposed district the opportunity to open their property to gravel, sand and clay mining.”

Sardinia Board members expressed their support for the idea, for the most part.

Sorgi said the proposal stays within the legal confines of the town’s comprehensive plan. He emphasized that the overlay district was approved by the town’s planning board. Sardinia Board Member Dan Miller and Supervisor Mary Hannon both indicated that they would prefer to see the creation of an overlay district.

In addition, Gernatt has announced plans to expand on its existing plant. Should the proposal pass, it would also allow Gernatt to mine the remaining 90 acres of its land.

Both Sorgi and Ziccarelli said that the proposed district offers many benefits, including its proximity to Route 16 and rail lines.

Rich Watkins, a town resident who lives near Gernatt’s facility, asked several questions about the proposal, including whether the company would purchase land from land owners.

“If there’s [material] on the land, yes,” Sorgi said.

Another important component to the proposal concerns mitigation efforts for the loss of prime farm land, as a result of mining and reclamation, which, according to a proposed ordinance, would “proceed on an acre-for-acre basis, as prime farmland is permanently removed from production.

“For every acre permanently removed from production, another off-site must be benefitted or improved within one year from said removal,” the ordinance read. “Acceptable mitigation methods shall include, but not be limited to, assisting town of Sardinia farmers by offering grading, drainage and erosion control improvements with machinery, personnel or funds or securing development rights and conservation easements on other properties.”

One audience member raised concerns about what he said he felt was the town’s failure to notify the public about this proposal, as well provide the necessary documentation about the proposal on the town’s website.

Town officials defended their practice, saying that all documentation, including the original proposal and acquired state permits, are available at the town hall. Notices about public hearings are printed in local newspapers.

Officials added that posting all related documents on the town’s website would be lengthy and require staff time the town does not have.

In other board news:
– The board approved the 2013 town budget.

– The board approved three payments of $2,500 for three years, to the Sardinia Legion Post 1131.

– The board appointed Richard Wells as a member of the Sardinia Zoning Board of Appeals, effective Jan. 1.

– Nancy Pugh and Waste Management were given commendations for their work with the town’s rabies clinic and town events.

The next regular meeting of the board will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 13.

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