LOCKPORT – The Town Board took a verbal beating this week from residents who live near the Lafarge North America stone quarry, whose 162-foot expansion request was approved by the board Dec. 26.
“The Town Board was looking at this as a minor change to a large project that already exists,” Town Supervisor Marc R. Smith said.
Although it appears too late to sue – lawsuits challenging local government actions normally must be filed within 30 days – it’s not too late to complain, and the residents did that with gusto.
“You work for the Town of Lockport residents. You don’t work for the Town of Lafarge,” said Claudette Lemieux, a resident of Murphy Road. She said she was “outraged, shocked and appalled … about what you, our elected officials, have done to our community.”
What they did was approve an amendment to the town zoning ordinance that allowed Lafarge to blast its way through a strip of land on the edge of its existing quarry, moving the brink 162 feet closer to the north side of Hinman Road. The quarry previously ended 300 feet from the road.
Residents nearby have long complained about property damage they attribute to the blasting of rock.
“My house is an 1832 home. I wonder how much longer it’s going to withstand the rumbling and crumbling,” said Jim Mulenin of Hinman Road.
Councilman Mark C. Crocker said, “Lafarge demonstrated that they did have insurance and they would be willing to work the community on any damage … If there is any damage, take Lafarge up and make sure they pay for it.”
Easier said than done, said Murphy Road resident Tony Battaglia. “Lafarge is going to do whatever it takes to have a ‘not-my-fault’ approach,” he predicted.
Joelle Lipski-Rockwood, Lafarge’s U.S. communications director, said in a statement to The Buffalo News that “Lafarge is committed to operating in a safe and environmentally conscious manner and looks forward to continuing its contribution to the community’s economy and remaining an active participant in the Lockport community for years to come.”
The quarry, originally called Frontier Stone, has been in business for nearly 60 years.
The Town Board pledged to take a harder line when Lafarge applies to expand its operations to the other side of Hinman Road, where the company has been buying up property for the past several years. State approval would be needed for that expansion, too.
“We put Lafarge on notice that we can’t have such short notice about any future moves,” said Crocker, who said the board received about 30 days’ warning of Lafarge’s 162-foot request.
Smith denied statements by some residents that there are plans to close Hinman Road to traffic, at least in front of the quarry.
“We have no plans to close the road,” he said.