As Kent officials work to include mining safeguards in the municipal code, a public hearing has been scheduled to extend an existing moratorium halting any excavation work from being conducted on town property.
With the current mining moratorium set to expire on March 3, the Kent Town Board agreed last week to schedule the public hearing for March 2. If passed, this will be the third time a six-month freeze will be implemented to ensure officials have the time to review and revise any current proposals.
“Although we don’t want this to take another six months necessarily, we’d like to pound this out and work with the public to get this done,” Town Supervisor Maureen Fleming said at the Feb. 9 meeting. “We think it’s in everyone’s best interest to extend the moratorium to ensure that we have a piece of legislation that everyone is happy with.”
Last March, the board tried putting together a mining code rather quickly, but it was the public that suggested a moratorium to guarantee lawmakers could carefully craft legislation. But those plans were ceased due to COVID-19.
While mining isn’t a specific use, nor is it prohibited within the town code, officials opted to pass a six-month freeze on mining, which was later renewed another six months in September. The moratorium stops the excavation of sand, gravel, topsoil, rock, and other natural materials.
“Every individual that has contacted me through the town clerk has been in support of extending the moratorium to get this right,” Fleming said.
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.
Nearly two years later, the board is now reviewing a series of amendments that would regulate mining and excavation work performed by potential developers in the town’s soil removal and zoning code laws. Officials have said it’s a simpler approach than creating a new and separate mining law.
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.
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 at the Jan. 19 meeting 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.
With the public hearing set the day before the moratorium expires, Fleming is encouraging residents to send any comments to the town before then, asserting that she wants the board to be able to close the public hearing and vote on the resolution during the March 2 meeting.
“I think we all pretty much know what the public wants in this matter,” Fleming said. “I think the board has been pretty clear in our resolve to do this, so I don’t think this is going to be an issue to wrangle with.”