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Steele Ave. Ext. residents plan to fight proposed Johnstown gravel mine

Monday, September 17, 2012
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— Residents along Steele Avenue Extension in the town have organized to fight a proposed gravel and sand mining operation that would operate within hundreds of yards of their homes.

Calling themselves the Neighborhood Preservation Alliance, the neighbors are closely monitoring an application filed with the town of Johnstown by Frank Fernandez of Oakridge Farm LLC. He wants to open a 15-acre gravel pit that could be up to 80 feet deep on a hill off Steele Avenue Extension. The lifespan of the pit would be approximately 15 years, according to the application.

Tim Preddice, of 192 Steele Ave. Extension, organized the group. “The neighborhood does not favor this because of the traffic, noise, dust and the possible degradation of our property values,” he said.

Fernandez was not available for comment for this story.

Jeff Green of 212 Steele Ave. Extension said he joined NPA to stop the mine from going in behind his house. “The area has never been mined before and people are trying to get it mined,” he said. “We don’t want the dirt and dust. The trucks will also drop off a lot of stones on the ground. It is hazardous.”

The proposed mine would operate in a permissible use area zoned agricultural, residential, according to town officials. The area contains at least four other gravel mines.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation is serving as lead agency for the state environmental quality review application, or SEQR. Ryan Fagan, town of Johnstown code enforcement officer, said the state always takes lead on applications dealing with mining operations.

He said the project will require a site plan and will have to go before the Town Planning Board. But before that happens, the state has to complete the SEQR and obtain the necessary permits.

The state can give the SEQR a negative or positive declaration. A positive declaration means the project will adversely affect the environment, triggering a full review process. Oakridge will then have to show how it will mitigate negative environmental effects. As part of this process, it will have to engage agencies and neighbors from the area. Fagan said the area contains a state agricultural district and the Hale Creek Field Station, a laboratory and office complex operated by the DEC.

Preddice said the town 10 years ago imposed a townwide moratorium on mining operations, while it did research toward upgrading its zoning ordinances. “After the public had its input and the town rezoned anything, there was no need to continue to moratorium,” he said. The moratorium expired in 2005-2006.

Preddice said the group’s next step is to collect signatures on a petition in opposition to the proposed mine. “We hoping to collect a couple thousand signatures,” he said.

 
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