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Lafarge won’t answer questions about plans because of lawsuit

LOCKPORT – Lafarge North America said last week it won’t respond to a letter from the Town of Lockport, seeking details about its future expansion plans, until after a lawsuit over a near-term, smaller expansion is settled.

Perry Galdenzi, Western New York area manager for Lafarge, said Friday that the company’s attorneys have decided that it is best not to answer the letter while a lawsuit is pending from a residents group called Enough Is Enough.

That group, made up of residents who live near the company’s stone and gravel quarry, sued the town in April, attempting to overturn a zoning amendment approved Dec. 26 by the Town Board.

That measure allowed Lafarge to mine a 162-foot-wide strip of land along the edge of its current quarry on the north side of Hinman Road. The strip is 4,324 feet long.

Galdenzi said Lafarge can keep going for about three years on the strength of the new strip. He said that the quarry was running out of material that was good enough to meet the standards of the state Department of Transportation for use in road repaving and that the 162-foot-wide strip can supply it.

Lafarge has been buying up real estate on the south side of Hinman Road over the past several years with an eye toward an eventual expansion of the quarry.

“That’s many, many years out,” said Galdenzi, who noted that the lawsuit is about the zoning amendment, not the expansion.

In early April, Town Supervisor Marc R. Smith sent Lafarge a six-page letter including every question residents had raised about the company’s operations in the course of several Town Board meetings dating back to last fall.

He said at the time that the town wants to revise its master plan and needs to know what Lafarge intends to do, and when it plans to do it.

The residents want the town to prevent the expansion.

Residents speaking at board meetings complained of property damage and dust from Lafarge’s blasting and its customers’ hauling.

The town’s current zoning law bars mining, but there is an exception for Lafarge, which bought out a local company once called Frontier Stone, whose operations predated the zoning ordinance.

Barry N. Covert, attorney for Enough Is Enough, said the lawsuit will be heard June 19 by State Supreme Court Justice Ralph A. Boniello III in Niagara Falls.

In response, Morgan L. Jones Jr., attorney for the town, contended that the plaintiffs named in the suit all have property on Murphy Road, not close enough to the quarry to have legal standing to sue.

He wrote that the members live no nearer than 3,000 feet from the expansion strip – not close enough, especially since there has been mining at the site for more than 60 years and the zoning amendment moves the mining only 162 feet nearer to the plaintiff’s homes.

“The case fully supports that the clients are close enough,” Covert said. “It’s very sad that the town is attacking its own constituents as opposed to listening to them.”

Jones also argued that Lafarge should have been included as a party to the case and that is reason enough to dismiss it.