Kent residents battling a proposed truck stop at Route 52 recently won their vehement fight after the developer said he would remove the truck stop component from the proposal.
At the beginning of the October 22nd Kent Town Board meeting, Kent Supervisor Maureen Fleming announced that she got a call from the developer’s team earlier that afternoon who told her the truck stop was withdrawn from the application.
Responding to Fleming’s announcement was a round of applause from the more than 60 people crowded into the courtroom.
“I was told the developer is listening to the people of the town of Kent and is responding to them,” Fleming said. “The town board is listening to you too.”
A public statement was released confirming the developer’s statement and is on the town’s website. https://www.townofkentny.gov/sites/kentny/files/uploads/memorandum_from_kent_country_square_llc.pdf.
The memo confirms that the intention of Kent County Square, LLC is “to remove the truck-stop component of the site plan in view of a more community-based and amenable use(s) on that portion of the Project site.” The memo was signed by Tejpal Sandhu, Managing Member.
Kent Country Square LLC owns the 137-acre parcel east of the intersection of Ludingtonville Road on Route 52. The original plan included a truck fueling and rest stop, truck service and repair shop, two hotels, an indoor waterpark, a restaurant and a convention center.
A grassroots movement galvanized a growing number of residents fighting the truck stop that would be located just 1500 feet away from Kent Elementary School and Kent Primary School. If the town had approved the plan it would mean blasting 54 acres of rock and mining down 180 feet. The planning board is the lead agency for the project and would need to approve a final site plan.
At the town board meeting a political skirmish surfaced when town board councilman Paul Denbaum lashed out at Fleming, blaming her for not telling the board about the truck stop removal during their earlier executive session, but rather making a politically motivated announcement when she had a full audience.
“Now that everybody is here — they left their homes on a rainy night – they left their kids home — you’ve come out with this political statement as if at the last minute,” Denbaum said as the audience applauded.
Fleming countered Denbaum’s attack. “The truck stop issue was not a proper forum to bring up in executive session,” she said. “That’s why I waited for the public town board.”
“All I know is that you’ve been on the record for this truck stop from the beginning,” Denbaum said. “You stopped me at every turn to have this public hearing.”
Fleming told Denbaum, “That’s absolutely false.”
The public hearing Denbaum was referring to was to consider a zoning change that would ease current height restrictions. Kent Country Square is expected to ask for this particular zoning change so the planned hotel marquees could be seen from a distance. After several residents voiced their objections to the zoning change, Fleming asked for a show of hands of those against the change. Everyone in the room raised their hand; there were no raised hands in favor.
But another serious issue looms over the town: Mining.
“The developer still intends to mine the site,” said Eileen Civitillo, co-founder of the Stop Kent Truck Stop Committee. “The developer gave no indication the mining was going to be any different.”
Kent Country Square still intends to ‘prepare the site’, which means leveling 54 acres and mining 180 feet of rock, according to Civitillo. “Were curious why he needs to do that,” she said.
Currently the New York DEC (Department of Environmental Conservation) is the only regulatory agency that can issue mining permits. “We are truly at the mercy of the DEC to issue permits to developers,” Kent resident Maureen Galway-Perotti told the board. “There is no law that regulates mining in the town of Kent which means the town has no control.”
Councilman Chris Ruthven said he is introducing legislation that will give Kent some control over local mining. A public discussion of the proposed legislation will be held on November 22.
The developer still has to propose a new plan for the parcel previously slated for the truck stop and will still need to mine that site. “We figure it’s about 6,700,000 cubic yards of rock that has to be hauled away from that site,” said Civitillo. “If a large truck can haul 75 yards of rock, it would take 89,333 truckloads — truckloads that will be on our roads, near the schools, and our school buses.”