Concerned Kent residents who live near a possible concrete mixing business are calling on the town board to take action to stop the business from setting up shop along Route 52.
Residents in the Hill & Dale section and Lake Carmel section of town urged the Kent town board to file suit against the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals after the ZBA approved a resolution that would give the concrete plant the ability to run its operation, which includes cement mixing. Kent Investors was fighting for the use.
The town board passed a unanimous resolution requesting the ZBA reopen a public hearing on the matter and rescind the prior approval. While a special ZBA meeting was scheduled for Monday evening, not enough board members were on hand for a quorum so it was called off. Two ZBA members stiill took questions from residents.
Because there is only a 30-day limit to file an Article 78 once a decision is made on a board, it would need to be filed, most likely by residents, by Aug. 17 before the ZBA meets again. The ZBA made its decision on July 17.
The concrete plant could be running in three months, Bill Walters, the building inspector, said. The plant has been unoccupied for a time before it was bought. That owner wants to lease the parcel of land to a Bronx concrete mixing company.
The issue of whether a concrete mixing business can operate on the land comes down to if the parcel is a use-variance or an area-variance. The town building inspector ruled it was an area-variance, which would have halted Kent Investor’s plans, but the ZBA determined the parcel was a use-variance and the company is entitled to mix concrete.
Shauna Denkensohn, an environmental planner and Kent resident that lives across the street from the plant, argued the business would have too many adverse affects in the community. She said the location is in a sensitive area environmentally and near a residential neighborhood.
She said the company is a non-union business that has about 50 large concrete trucks. There were a number of issues not addressed by the zoning board, Denkensohn said, calling it “staggering.”
She said there are questions over where the plant will get water from and where possible dirty water discharged from the property will go. Air issues were also mentioned by Denkensohn, warning it would lead to more pollution in the area. Worsening traffic was a concern as well, she said.
She said a variance should not have been given and urged the town board to pursue legal action against the zoning board to change its course until all issues are mitigated. She requested the town board be an advocate for the residents near the concrete plant.
Town attorney Nancy Tagliafierro said the zoning board didn’t grant a variance, but found there was an existing use- variance from 1948 for the property that is permanent for concrete mixing. The town board supported the building inspector’s opinion that it was an area-variance instead and even paid for an attorney to go to the zoning board to support the building inspector’s stance.
Councilman Paul Denbaum said the zoning board was “100 percent wrong” and argued the town board needs to do everything it can to reverse the zoning board’s decision. Supervisor Maureen Fleming said she had a conversation with a zoning board member and got the sense the board would reopen the public hearing.
“If the zoning board of appeals could legally reopen the public hearing I do not think they would be opposed to doing that,” Fleming said.
In an interview, she said the town board couldn’t force the ZBA to make a certain ruling because the two boards are supposed to be independent of the other.
Zoning board vice-chairman Bob Bradley said the ZBA faced a very limited scope based off a very poorly written decision from 1948. Because the zoning board did not issue a new variance, environmental questions were not brought up, Bradley said. He said it took months to reach a decision on the matter.
He said it would help the zoning board reopen the public hearing if new information were presented.
Aldo Vitagliano, an attorney for a couple of the residents, said he believes when the zoning board made its ruling in July that they were “totally wrong” and the building inspector was correct because the property wasn’t in use for a long enough period of time. He said he was shocked the zoning board closed public comment after he requested more time for residents to give input on the proposed business.
Vitagliano recommended an Article 78 lawsuit needs to be pursued by the town board and stressed the action would not be unprecedented in the Hudson Valley. He said there are past decisions within the town that could reverse the zoning board’s determination.
Vitagliano said his clients were ready to bring an Article 78 lawsuit against the zoning board if the town board isn’t willing to. He said even a use-variance can expire and more facts could be brought forward if the ZBA gave residents more time to present them.
“There’s strong legal basis to overturn the zoning board for the decision they came out with,” he said.