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Citizen’s group sues to block Lafarge expansion of quarry

LOCKPORT – A group of residents who live near the Lafarge North America stone quarry filed suit last week seeking to overturn the Lockport Town Board’s decision to allow Lafarge to mine a larger area.

The suit by Enough is Enough, as the group of Hinman Road and Murphy Road residents calls itself, asserts that the Town Board did not carry out a valid environmental review process before approving a zoning ordinance amendment that allowed Lafarge to move its mining operations 162 feet closer to Hinman Road.

The board voted Dec. 26 to approve the amendment and an environmental assessment form. However, 22 days earlier, on Dec. 4, the board had approved a “negative declaration,” asserting that the zoning change would have no impact on the environment.

That process was backwards, according to Barry N. Covert of Buffalo’s Lipsitz Green law firm, which represents Enough is Enough.

The board passed the State Environmental Quality Review “before they completed the form, which is very hard to fathom,” Covert said Friday.

He said the board couldn’t have evaluated all the criteria it was supposed to before approving such a measure.

“The board’s approval of the resolution was based on its own arbitrary and capricious and/or legally improper conclusion that expanding the special mining district would not have a significant adverse effect on the environment,” the lawsuit states.

Town officials had contended that the negative declaration was proper because the Town Board was merely amending the zoning ordinance, not undertaking a particular project.

However, it was apparent last fall that the only reason the board took up the zoning issue was because Lafarge requested it do so. Some board members complained that Lafarge hadn’t given the town enough notice of its desires to expand.

Town Attorney Michael J. Norris said Friday he hadn’t received the lawsuit and declined to comment. Town Supervisor Marc R. Smith also said he would not comment.

Company officials asserted at the Dec. 4 meeting that Lafarge needed to mine the rim of its current quarry in order to stay in business.

The town gave it the right to mine a strip on the south side of Hinman Road, 162 feet wide and 4,324 feet long.

Before the zoning amendment, the mining area ended 300 feet from the road. Residents say Lafarge’s blasting and hauling damages their homes and their quality of life.

After approving the zoning amendment, board members explained that they didn’t think the move would result in any appreciable change in conditions that have existed for many years.

The zoning ordinance had to be changed because it banned all mining except in the area Lafarge already was using.

Lafarge has bought up most of the property on the north side of Hinman Road for a major future expansion. Earlier this month, the Town Board sent the company a letter seeking detailed information about its plans.

The questions were taken from those raised by residents during recent Town Board meetings.