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Ancram wonders whether farmer has mining in mind


ANCRAM—The Town Planning Board wants more complete information before it decides on a controversial application to remove thousands of yards of sand and gravel from a farm field along the east side of Route 22, just north of White House Crossing Road.

At the Planning Board’s September 2 meeting, Chairman John Ingram noted that he had received an updated project map from applicant Fred Schneeberger, owner/operator of G & S Excavating Inc., in Ancramdale, which shows the change in topography the excavation would cause. Also, the plan now proposes to remove 5,000 cubic yards of sand and gravel less than the original 25,000 cubic yards previously proposed.

The application, dated May 5 of this year, has been under consideration by the Planning Board for the past few months.

Mr. Schneeberger seeks permission for an excavation project to remove a knoll in the farm field to make the terrain safer for the operation of farm machinery.

Mr. Schneeberger is acting on behalf of John Langdon, a Copake farmer who leases the 108 acres of land on which the knoll is located. Mr. Langdon has been farming the land for about 20 years, alternately growing soybean and feed corn.

Anthony Palumbo is the landowner. He also owns the Palumbo Block Company, Inc., in Dover Plains, Dutchess County, which is a supplier of concrete products.

Mr. Palumbo applied to the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) for a permit to operate a 73-acre gravel mine on the property previously, but was turned down.

‘We’ve been beating this thing to death for three months.’

Fred Schneeberger, owner/operator

G & S Excavating Inc., Ancramdale

Mr. Ingram told Mr. Schneeberger, who was present at the meeting with Mr. Langdon, that he had conferred with Planning Board counsel, Attorney John Lyons, and a few issues still need to be addressed.

Mr. Ingram said a few things are missing on the Short Environmental Assessment Form (EAF), such as mention of the wetlands on the property, delineations, setbacks and buffers. He noted that counsel recommends that the applicant also develop a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) and obtain a SWPPP permit from the DEC due to the disturbance the project will create.

Mr. Schneeberger said Mr. Palumbo spoke to DEC by phone yesterday and was told “we do not need it.”

Perhaps the DEC doesn’t need it, “but counsel is advising us it’s in our best interests to require it because of the disturbance,” said Mr. Ingram.

The chairman told Mr. Schneeberger to work with Planning Board Clerk J. Hoffman to resolve the outstanding issues.

Board member Erin Robertson noted that issues include not only the wetlands and the SWPPP, but also information about threatened species. The bog turtle was mentioned as one such threatened species in a document received following the meeting.

Ms. Robertson also said the application is for a special use permit, not just a site plan review as previously suggested, and therefore there are additional items to be addressed in that permitting process as indicated in the Zoning Law.

Ms. Robertson asked if the board would be discussing the communications received regarding the project following the closure of the public hearing last month.

Chairman Ingram said that board members have received the communications and will take them “under advisement.”

Ms. Robertson said the matter of “evidence” or the supportive reasoning for the project concerned her. I’m not sure we’ve been given enough evidence,” she said.

“We’ve been beating this thing to death for three months,” Mr. Schneeberger said.

Under Environmental Conservation Law (Article 23 Mineral Resources) definition of mining is, “…the extraction of overburden and minerals from the earth…” But the law goes on to say, “Mining shall not include … excavations in aid of agricultural activities.”

Project opponents, many of whom are residents of the Boston Corners area and project neighbors, have repeatedly stressed that the applicant must provide “substantive evidence that the project has to be necessary to farm operation.” Noise, truck traffic and the visual impact on the landscape are included among opponents’ objections.

The project involves the removal of 20,000 cubic feet of sand and gravel over 15 months. All the excavated material would be delivered to Mr. Palumbo’s block factory in Dover. The excavation area amounts to about three acres and will involve the use of three to four trucks making an average of six round trips from Ancram to Dover per day between the hours of 6 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The project site work would be suspended for the three months of winter.

There has been debate about whether the project is a “gravel mine” or an “excavation for the purpose of removing gravel.” Whether the project is or is not a gravel mine matters because it is located in the town’s Scenic Corridor Overlay Zone (SCOZ), so designated to “preserve the scenic beauty along New York State Route 22 and the Harlem Valley for the enjoyment of residents, commuters, recreational users and tourists.”

Prohibited uses in the SCOZ include “extractive operations and soil mining or excavation of minerals at a threshold that would require [a DEC] permit in accordance with New York State Mined Land Reclamation Law.”

The SCOZ ordinance says that in keeping with state Right to Farm Laws, “all farming operations and uses necessary to the operation of a farm are exempt from the development standards and site plan review requirements set forth in the Scenic Corridor Overlay Zone.” But the list of farming operations makes no mention of excavation.

After the board spent about 20 minutes on the matter, Mr. Schneeberger and Mr. Langdon departed the meeting with the instructions to supply the information necessary to complete the application.

Mr. Ingram said the board would decide on the application based on all the information provided.

The board meets next October 7 at 7 p.m.

To contact Diane Valden email

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