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Town of Lockport seeks answers from Lafarge on quarry expansion

LOCKPORT – The Town of Lockport is seeking answers about Lafarge North America’s plans to expand its stone and gravel quarry on Hinman Road, according to a letter from the town released by the company Wednesday.

The six-page letter from Lockport Supervisor Marc R. Smith also sought to sound out Lafarge on ways of compensating residents who contend their property is being damaged by blasting at the quarry.

Smith said copies of the letter are being sent to all residents on Hinman, Murphy and State roads and Campbell Boulevard, arriving in their mailboxes today or Friday.

Perry Galdenzi, Western New York area manager for Lafarge, said the company won’t respond to Smith’s letter until after he returns from vacation April 22. “We’re going to take a more proactive approach. We’re going to try to communicate better with residents and the media,” he said. The letter asks Lafarge to respond to every question residents have raised during public comment periods at Town Board meetings for the past several months. “We took a lot of notes. The Town Board and I merged our notes to include every question we could think of,” Smith said.

The letter asks Lafarge to show that it needs to expand to remain in business, with details about the expansion areas. Lafarge has purchased numerous properties on the south side of Hinman opposite its quarry in the past few years.

Smith said the town wants the information to help it prepare a new master plan, which will lead to adoption of a revised zoning ordinance next year. The present zoning ordinance bans mining in the town but contains an exception for Lafarge, originally known as Frontier Stone, whose operations in Lockport predate the ordinance.

Smith said it’s possible that a revised zoning ordinance might not include the grandfather clause for Lafarge, in effect putting the company out of business. Some speakers at past Town Board meetings have recommended exactly that.

On Dec. 26, the Town Board approved Lafarge’s request to begin mining a strip of land it owns between the lip of the current quarry and the north side of Hinman. The zoning amendment touched off criticism from residents and threats of legal action against the town.

Smith’s letter asks Lafarge to take specific actions “to guarantee to protect neighboring lands, values and [prevent] potential damage of structures.”

The letter also suggests a host community agreement with Lafarge, which Smith said could take one of several forms, including an annual stipend to the town.

Smith said that once the town allows mining, it loses all power to regulate it, since the company’s permit from the state Department of Environmental Conservation governs its operations.