Kent lawmakers are one step closer to resolving the issue of mining after presenting a series of amendments last week that would be included in the town’s soil removal and zoning code laws.
Nearly two years after mining became a controversial subject in Kent, the Town Board has opted to update both codes with proposed modifications that would regulate any mining and excavation work conducted by potential developers. Officials have said it’s a simpler approach than creating a separate law strictly focused on mining.
“I think doing it this way is more efficient than having an entire mining code,” Town Supervisor Maureen Fleming said at the Jan. 19 meeting. “I think it speaks to what we want to do here and that’s protect our town.”
Of the proposed amendments, the town would ensure no construction operation could be commenced or continued for the purpose of the sale or exchange of excavated topsoil, earth, sand, gravel, rock, or other substance from the ground.
Furthermore, a building permit would be required for any building and additional structures that require excavation or landfill necessary for construction, providing the volume of any excavated material removed from the property doesn’t exceed two times the volume of the foundation.
The building inspector would specify the maximum volume of excavated material that would be allowed for removal upon permit approval, according to the proposal. The mandate would also apply to all operations, such as proposed streets, rights-of-way, and drainage facilities, that require the removal of unearthed material.
An exemption to the law would be municipal and other public operations conducted by the Town of Kent, Putnam County or State of New York.
“I think that these protections are kind of what everybody was looking for, that we’re not having some operation just come in, level a mountain and take out all the minerals and then leave us with a pit,” Fleming said. “But it wouldn’t stop sensible development in our town.”
Officials would also consider the location and size of the proposed operation, the nature and intensity of the work involved, and if the proposal upon completion will be and appropriate use for the district in which it is located.
While not included in the proposal, Councilman William Huesits suggested requiring developers to submit a substantial bond to the town that would be returned at the project’s completion to guarantee good faith. If a developer violates the town code, the bond would not be returned, he recommended.
“We’ve got to protect the town and we’ve seen what happened to us on Route 52,” Huesits said. “We already got burned on something and it’s going to be interesting as any other project goes on.”
The topic of mining became a hot-button issues within the town after Kent Country Square LLC in 2019 proposed building a truck stop on a 137-acre parcel east of the intersection of Ludingtonville Road on Route 52, and 1,500 feet away from Kent Elementary School and Kent Primary School.
Original plans called for a gas station, a rest stop, truck service and repair shop, two hotels, an indoor waterpark, a restaurant, and convention center. Additionally, the plan would have resulted in the developer blasting 54 acres of rock and mining down 180 feet.
While the developer withdrew the truck stop element of the project, residents had warned the contractor still planned to mine the site. Since then, officials have examined the town code and discussed not only identifying mining and creating new policies, but also strengthening regulations regarding work related to mining.
Last March, the board tried putting together a mining code rather quickly, but it was the public that suggested a moratorium to halt the current proposal while lawmakers craft proper legislation. But those plans were halted due to COVID-19.
While mining isn’t a specific use, nor is it prohibited within the town code, officials passed a six-month freeze on mining, which was later renewed for another six months in September. The moratorium halts the excavation of sand, gravel, topsoil, rock, and other natural materials.
The moratorium is set to expire on March 1.
However, with the board only just reviewing the first draft of the proposed amendments last week, Fleming said she would be open to extending it once again, if needed, but not for as many months.
“We could extend it by six months but we’re getting close enough that it shouldn’t be six months,” Fleming said. “I wouldn’t anticipate we’d go six months.”
Officials advised residents to review the changes and submit their questions and comments to the town.