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Mining overlay district created in Sardinia

SARDINIA — Sardinia Town Board members passed a proposed zoning amendment that creates a mining overlay district within the town during its meeting held on Dec. 13, by a vote of 4 – 1.

Residents of Sardinia and the hamlet of Chaffee spoke at the meeting about the proposal, which would create a mining overlay district that includes areas on Allan, Genesee, Hand and Savage roads and Route 16.

Gernatt Asphalt Products has been the initiating company behind the proposal. The company’s vice president, Ken Ziccarelli, said that the new district would help preserve approximately 175 jobs and “push the company into the future.”

The proposal will also allow Gernatt to mine 90 acres of its land and will also give land owners within the proposed district the opportunity to open their property to gravel, sand and clay mining.

Some residents who attended the meeting said they were concerned about how the district would affect their property values and the region’s rural value.

One resident said that home values could fall by as much as 40 percent, a claim that Gernatt’s attorney, Peter Sorgi, asked to have verified. “Do you have documentation proving that?” he asked, adding that real estate agents could lose their licenses if they made such unverified statements.

Sorgi said that the proposal did not require the mining of the approximate 3,500 acres that comprises the overlay district, only that it created the option, for land owners. Sorgi said land owners have an absolute right to keep their farm land.

Carol Milligan asked the board to not “sell us out. Is this what town officials do?” she asked. “Betray us? Please say no.”

Supervisor Mary Hannon said that the town received a letter from the Erie County Department of Environment and Planning, requesting that the board refrain from action on this subject until mid-January, to allow the department more time to investigate the overall affects of such a mining overlay district.

Hannon said that the application process for the district has been in the proposal stage since April.

“I take offense that this letter, from the county, would come two days before the meeting,” she said.

The overlay district was proposed and passed by the town’s planning board, earlier this year. Hannon said that she did not think any entity had the right to tell land owners what to do with their land.

“Gernatt is just a company looking for an opportunity to expand,” Hannon said, “and this town has no right to tell them what to do.”

Board member David Montgomery asked that opposing residents support their claims. “I want to see proof of declining property values,” he said.

Board member Cheryl Earl said she understood both sides, but chose to support the proposal. “I’m not anti-business, and I totally understand both sides,” she said.

Board member Daniel Miller, the only board member to vote against the proposal, said he had a lot of reservations about it and based his decision on what residents felt about it. “I’m here for the people of the town,” he said.

Several audience members questioned the board and Hannon’s motives, asking if any of them had conflicts of interest, to which all said they did not.

The proposal was passed and the overlay district, according to Town Clerk Betsy Marsh, will take immediate effect.

In other board news:
– Hannon released exit poll results concerning two issues. For the creation of a new municipal building, 408 residents supported the idea, while 284 were against and 38 were undecided. On whether the town should offer broadband Internet service, 473 showed support, 231 voted against it and 26 were undecided.

– Negotiations between the board and the fire department are ongoing, Hannon said. No new information was reported.

– The board accepted the resignation of Colleen Cotrell, secretary to the town’s planning board.

The next regular meeting will be held on Jan. 10 at 6:30 p.m.

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