Kent lawmakers are moving forward with crafting legislation that would grant the town greater control over any mining work proposed by future developers.
During a recent public hearing, residents spoke in favor of amending the town code to include provisions for mining and excavation work. The town currently has few laws addressing site plan preparation, and mining isn’t included in the town code.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is the only regulatory agency that can issue mining permits to developers.
“In the absence of references and procedures in the existing zoning code surrounding mining, it is necessary that our town code address it and develop a code,” said Eileen Civitillo, co-founder of the Stop Kent Truck Stop Committee. “We are of the belief that the town needs a mining code that will not discourage development but rather serve to encourage the right development for our town.”
The topic of mining has become a hot-button issue within the town since Kent Country Square LLC 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While the developer announced in October that the truck stop element of the project has been withdrawn, residents believe the developer still intends to mine the site owned by Kent Country Square LLC.
While creating a mining code was encouraged by some residents, others pressed lawmakers to also consider updating the town’s comprehensive plan and approving a town-wide moratorium on mining that would last six months to a year.
“A mining moratorium would allow us to step back, pause, consider and re-evaluate all aspects that any mining operation would have, not with respect to the technical aspect of the mining industry, but with regard to the direction of the development in the Town of Kent and the resultant decades-long development ramifications,” said Maureen Galway-Perotti.
She said a moratorium would benefit the town as development continues to grow, adding that the demand for a particular use of land may arise, for which there are “inadequate or non-existent controls.”
Some officials agreed on a moratorium, but noted that one can’t be placed on something the town doesn’t currently include in its code.
Councilman Chris Ruthven, who last month suggested the town board address the issue of mining, said a form of mining is taking place within the town as contractors and developers seek permits from the state. While nobody is mining in the traditional sense for copper or gold, he said he believes that removing rock, dirt or topsoil is considered mining.
“I do think we need something,” said Ruthven. “We need to define it well; understand how we can have at least some control. We don’t want to stop development, but we want reasonable development and reasonable expectations of what developers are going to remove from our town as far as the minerals and the soils.”
He also questioned if excavation would fall under the guise of mining, suggesting that officials take their time in crafting any future legislation to enforce.
Town Supervisor Maureen Fleming said the board would need to define “removal” or “excavation” that would satisfy a future mining code. She added that the town would likely not place a moratorium on mining, but instead on excavation of a certain amount.
“Our attorneys have to really look into how we craft any kind of moratorium,” she said.