LOCKPORT – A lawsuit that challenged the legality of a Town Board vote allowing Lafarge North America to enlarge its stone quarry was dropped last week.
Although Andrew O. Miller, lawyer for the six residents who were plaintiffs contended that the lawsuit accomplished its goals, Lafarge, the attorney for the town and the original lawsuit itself say that’s not so.
The suit, filed April 25 by three Murphy Road couples under the group name “Enough is Enough,” sought to invalidate the zoning ordinance amendment that the board passed Dec. 26.
That measure allowed Lafarge to begin mining a strip of land 162 feet wide and about 4,000 feet long on the rim of its current quarry on Hinman Road. The amendment was needed because the town’s zoning ordinance bars mining except where it existed before the ordinance’s adoption in 2005.
Last week, attorneys in the case signed an agreement ending the lawsuit.
“Neither the town nor the quarry made any concessions,” said Morgan L. Jones Jr., attorney for the town.
The town contended in its legal filings that the Murphy Road residents who sued live too far away from the quarry to have legal standing to challenge the zoning amendment.
Former Town Attorney Daniel E. Seaman acknowledged in an affidavit that Lafarge sought the amendment primarily to make sure the zoning law wouldn’t interfere with its plans to expand to the south side of Hinman.
Lafarge has bought up properties on Hinman with an eye toward an eventual quarry expansion across the road from the existing 426.1-acre pit on the north side of the road, a figure that includes the expansion area. That southern move will be subject to additional environmental review, Miller said.
Lafarge never was a party to the lawsuit, but its area manager, Perry A. Galdenzi, commented, “We’re happy with how it turned out.”
He said the state Department of Environmental Conservation granted the company a permit to mine in the rezoned 162-foot-wide strip Sept. 9, and that work has begun.
“We’re certainly happy we can now move forward,” Galdenzi said. “We can have stone on the ground throughout the winter for our customers.”
He said Lafarge is holding the high-quality aggregate gravel from the strip for highway use, because it meets state Department of Transportation guidelines for paving material.
The plaintiffs were Carol and Earl Clark, Marlin and Claudette Lemieux and James and Elizabeth Surdej. Miller, their attorney, said Friday, “We achieved our goals and objectives.”
One of those, Miller said, was having the DEC reduce the area to be mined from 30 acres to 11 acres. “The citizens were concerned about the scope of the expansion,” he said.
But Galdenzi said that existing DEC regulations regarding road setbacks for mines meant that Lafarge never could have mined more than 11 acres, lawsuit or not.
Galdenzi said Lafarge intends “in the next few weeks” to reply to a letter the town sent April 9, requesting detailed answers regarding its future plans and its ideas on compensating residents for reported damage to their homes from blasting, dust and truck traffic.