|The Lafarge Quarry in Lockport wants to expand closer to neighboring homes.
There are loud noises coming from the Town of Lockport, and not just from the quarry operations on Hinman Road.
People are very upset with the recent actions by the Lockport Town Board approving an amendment to the town’s zoning law expanding the boundary of Lafarge North America’s current site, moving it 162 feet closer to the north side of Hinman Road. The zoning law originally maintained a 300 foot buffer from the road.
The Town Board held a public hearing on Dec. 5, 2012, during which an area manager for Lafarge, Perry Galdenzi, explained why the company was seeking to expand the Special Mining District. Lafarge needed to meet the Department of Transportation’s specifications for the aggregates collected for manufacturing concrete and asphalt. The expanded site contained what was needed, and as such, could extend the life of the quarry for 1 ½ to 2 years. Otherwise, the quarry would be forced to close.
Town residents and property owners near the site expressed concern that the proposed expansion raised many quality of life issues for them. Many people spoke of how their homes were previously damaged by the mining operation. They were also worried about increased truck traffic, noise and adverse environmental effects that the enlarged site could bring. Their property values were also jeopardized by the quarry’s operation and existence.
There is additional suspicion of Lafarge since they have acquired properties across Hinman Road. If this is a foothold into gaining additional mining sites, what will be the consequences for the surrounding neighborhood?
The economic impact obviously played a hand in how the board decided the issue. Would the Town fare better with Lafarge maintaining its operation in Lockport, keeping over 40 people employed, or should the property values of the surrounding homeowners be the overriding factor?
Though the decision to move forward with the amendment was made in December, the dissatisfied residents are pledging to keep attending the board’s meetings and letting their elected officials know that they are not happy. To them, it is not just the decision itself; it is how the decision was made. The whole concept came quickly and with seemingly little consideration of the community’s feelings.
That, in part, is what is driving Paul Black’s desire to bring greater transparency to the Town Board’s meetings and work sessions. Though he is not personally impacted by the expansion, he witnessed the struggle of the residents to have their voices heard.
“I was at the last Town Board meeting on Feb. 6 and I listened to these people just pouring their hearts out, and they were just mentally exhausted. They couldn’t believe that the town didn’t seem to care about all the people who were protesting against this expansion,” observed Black.
It seemed to him that the board members had already made up their minds and the only reason the citizens were still able to speak on the issue was state law requirements allowing them to do so. Though not an attorney, the industrial machinist likes to write and conduct his own research. He has proposed bylaws to promote greater transparency, which may dovetail with state law. He does not know the extent his proposal intersects with the State’s Open Meetings law, but he felt something needed to be done. “State law does not require the board to do anything about what people say.”
A town resident, Black has long had concerns about how the board operates. He does not think the board will actually take up his proposed by-laws, but is considering a petition drive to get the proposal on the ballot for referendum this year, if it is legal.
In the meantime, Lafarge will move forward, seeking Department of Environmental Conservation permits as the next part of their process. The Town Board maintains that its approval only goes for the expansion of its current site, and any attempt to cross Hinman Road would require further discussion.
That will be a discussion Paul Black would hope takes place at the right time, and in a very open place.