Public Hearing Set on Mining District Issue
By Colleen Mahoney
A vacancy on the Great Valley Planning Board sparked a conversation about combining the planning and zoning boards at the June 8 town board meeting. Currently, the seven member planning board has six seats filled and the zoning board has three seats out of five filled.
According to town attorney Peter Sorgi, combining the planning and zoning boards would allow for a five member board, with two alternates. New York state law requires towns to have a zoning board, but a combination board is allowed.
“It can be the same board, and for a town this size, that’s an option,” Sorgi said. “It really is unfair for any applicant not to have a full board.”
For example, he noted, Havorth Communications and Verizon Wireless requested a full planning board vote on their proposal to erect a cell tower on Martin Road.
Because a local law is needed to combine the two boards, a public hearing was set for July 13.
The board also set a public hearing, on the same date, for the proposed Sand, Gravel and Clay Mining Overlay District. Residents in attendance questioned the logic behind the map that was presented and why a district was needed.
Town Supervisor Dan Brown explained that, roughly 10 years ago, the town adopted a law that would stop the creation of new gravel pits, in part because too many companies were applying. Since then, the influx of new pits has diminished, Brown said, but those that do want a gravel pit have to get variance. The process is lengthy and puts a burden on the zoning board, according to Brown.
If the town creates a district, applicants for a new gravel pit would bypass the zoning board. The application would need to be approved by the Department of Environmental Conservation before the town has a 30 day window to have final say.
“Town zoning code does not allow for new mining permits,” Sorgi said. “The only way new mining can happen [now]… is to ask for new variances. The options are to keep it as is and don’t change it, or allow it through some [approved] mechanism.”
Brown said he felt creating a district was the “easiest way to allow the industry” and still protect the town.
Both public hearings will be at 7 p.m. on July 13, preceding the regular business meeting.