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Town finds it's on both sides of suit

It might be simplifying matters a bit much to say the Town of Sardinia is suing itself, but that's essentially what is happening.

The Town Board filed suit in State Supreme Court on Tuesday against the town's Zoning Board of Appeals.

The Appeals Board last month approved a variance that would allow Gernatt Asphalt Products to start mining most of its 400-acre gravel pit between Genesee and Allen roads, near the intersections with Route 16.

The board made its decision after the town had been engaged in a 14-year legal battle to stop Gernatt from mining the site, with the town winning the final appeal and receiving a permanent order to stop soil mining there in 2003.

The decision was made on the grounds soil mining violated town zoning rules.

But Gernatt applied for a variance in May, citing the $1.15 million it paid for the three properties that make up the "Gabel-Thomas site." Gernatt has several other gravel mines in Sardinia.

The board approved the variance Oct. 2 and made a "negative declaration," meaning it determined the project would need no further environmental review.

"We did what we were supposed to do, and we voted in good conscience," said board Chairman Michael Hannon. "As far as I'm concerned, we did it correctly."

The Town Board voted last month to file a suit against the Appeals Board. It was one of the few instances in Supervisor Kathy Balus' almost two years in office in which she has agreed with that board's Republican majority on a controversial issue.

"We've been in court with Gernatt, fighting them, keeping them out, and we had won the case," said Balus. "The board gave permission for them to come in and take some of their millings and granted extensions.

"The last time, we said, 'OK, but that's it. We want the pit closed and remediated.' Instead we got the application to the ZBA," Balus said.

A court date has not been set yet, but one thing is certain: The lawyers for both sides will be paid from Sardinia's budget.

e-mail: eploetz@buffnews.com

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