LOCKPORT – A court challenge to the Town Board’s approval of an expansion of the Lafarge North American stone quarry may be in the offing.
Residents who live near the affected area have retained Barry N. Covert, of Buffalo’s Lipsitz Green law firm, to represent them in opposing the town’s Dec. 26 decision to amend its zoning ordinance to allow Lafarge to mine a strip of land along the rim of its existing quarry.
The zoning amendment allowed mining in a strip of land about 162 feet wide and 4,000 feet long, which more than halves the current 300-foot buffer between the edge of the quarry and the north edge of Hinman Road.
Covert said he believes that only the state Department of Environmental Conservation, which licenses mining operations, could have approved the expansion, not the Town Board.
Town Supervisor Marc R. Smith said the opponents of the board’s decision are “grasping at straws.”
“We will withstand this challenge,” he said.
But the town has its own beefs with Lafarge. Smith said the company has not given the town any information about when it might begin digging a quarry on the south side of Hinman Road, where the company has been buying up property for the past several years.
Smith has been pushing for an update of the town’s master plan. However, he said Friday that the plan won’t be introduced this month or next, as he had hoped.
“There’s no sense in updating our master plan if we don’t know what their plans are,” Smith said, referring to Lafarge. The new plan is expected to rezone the Hinman Road property to permit mining.
“We’re working with the town to meet all their deadlines,” Lafarge spokeswoman Joelle Rockwood said.
Wendel, the town’s engineering firm, cannot deliver a finished draft before summer, Smith said.
“It would be unfair to hold public hearings in the summer,” Smith said, so the first hearing would be in the fall.
“We want to make sure the residents over there are informed,” he said. The town and the affected residents alike complained that Lafarge hadn’t given enough notice of its desire to mine the 4,000-foot strip.
However, the board went ahead with the approval, with members explaining they didn’t think the expansion would significantly alter the quality of life on Hinman Road, where residents have been complaining for years about property damage allegedly caused by blasting.