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RULING VOIDS REZONING FOR NEW QUARRY

The Alabama Town Board's rezoning action that would have been the first step toward allowing Lancaster Crushed Stone Products Corp. to excavate another quarry 1,000 feet from its current one has been nullified by Supreme Court Justice Kevin M. Dillon after a Genesee County hearing.

The Town Board voted April 14 to rezone James K. Carey's 182-acre dairy farm on Gorton Road from agricultural to industrial. On March 10, the board had authorized Supervisor Ronald Pritchett to file a "negative declaration," saying town officials perceived the proposed quarrying as posing no harmful effects to the environment.

But Dillon found the Town Board had not complied with the state Environmental Quality Review Act, which requires a full environmental impact study before making any such declaration for a project that would involve mining so much stone and earth.

He also termed the negative declaration determination "arbitrary and capricious" and said the board's reliance on future permit actions by the state Department of Environmental Conservation and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was misplaced.

Wayne E. Phelps and his sons, Bryan W. and Dennis F., filed the lawsuit against the Town Board. They argued the rezoning would destroy their large livestock and grain farm between the Carey farm and the current quarry and hem in their property.

Dillon's ruling, which at least delays development of the multimillion-dollar project, also prevents Carey from selling his farm to Lancaster Crushed Stone, the only potential buyer.

But the decision does not end the dispute that has raged in Alabama much of the year and will be a key issue in the November election. While the Alabama Planning Board and 500 people who signed petitions opposed the rezoning, the Genesee County Planning Board had favored it.

Pritchett described the ruling as disappointing and said he would renew the rezoning attempt.

"Next time, we will have a full environmental impact study," he said. "Instead of the short form we used, we will use the long form. I think the (negative impact) result will be the same."

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