Kent Officials Squash Mining Law, Propose Simpler Approach

Over a year after mining became a controversial subject in Kent, officials are still debating on how to best address the issue to ensure the health and safety of residents and the overall community.

The Kent Town Board decided that instead of creating legislation centered on the prohibition of mining, to instead update the town’s code on soil removal with amendments regulating mining. Officials believe it would be simpler to add a few paragraphs to an existing code than to draft a separate law.

“I think the prohibition on mining for mining sake, I think everybody would support that,” Town Supervisor Maureen Fleming said during the Dec. 15 meeting. “We understand that in some places that if you’re going to build, you’re going to have to break up some rock, but I don’t think we want to tell people they can’t build but we certainly don’t want people excavating thousands of tons of rock and then walking away, I mean, that’s horrific.”

Currently, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is the only regulatory agency that can issue mining permits to developers, leaving the town with little control. However, while the town can’t regulate soil depth or removal of materials, it can if it’s proven the work will detriment health, safety and welfare.

The town can also control where mining is allowed, officials said.

While mining isn’t a specific use, nor is it prohibited within the town code, officials passed a six-month moratorium on mining in March, 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 topic of mining became a hot-button issues within the town after Kent Country Square LLC last year 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While the developer announced last October that the truck stop element of the project had been withdrawn, residents warned the contractor still planned to mine the site.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.

Back in March, Fleming had said the board tried putting together a mining code rather quickly last year, 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.

Officials said they would discuss mining once again at their Jan. 19 meeting. Fleming suggested the board would make some good, positive movement on the subject then.

“I think that changing our soil removal section is going to cover a lot of what we want to deal with in a simpler way,” Fleming said. “I really do think that you want to make it obvious what you’re saying instead of having to wade through 20 pages that people get a headache if we can say the same thing in a few code sections.”