GHENT-After a hearing last week that lasted only a few minutes, the Ghent Planning Board adopted a resolution approving a special use permit for the Molinari gravel mine based on an agreement reached between the owners of the mine property, Vince and Lisa Molinari, and their closest neighbors.
The settlement and the permit appear to bring to a close a rancorous land use dispute in the town that dates from 2006, when the Molinaris sought approval to proposed building recreational pond of up to six acres at their property on Carpenter Road and selling the gravel removed in the process. That plan perturbed neighbors, who worried about dust, noise, traffic, road degradation and diminished property values, though the property lies within a part of the town where mining is allowed.
The board approved a special use permit for the project in 2009, but in 2010 a court decision blocked it on the basis of the poor condition of Carpenter Road. Since then the town law concerning roads and mining were changed and the applicants tried again. In 2011, the Planning Board rejected the new application, but the applicants won a court case in March allowing the project to proceed. The Planning Board, on the advice of its lawyer, held one final hearing last week so that the newest member of the board, Gary Ocean, who was not on the board during the earlier phases of the project, could have a chance to hear from the public on the matter.
The agreement allows mining for five years, with an option to mine six additional months if the desired pond size, equal to 143,749 cubic yards of material, the amount of material that must be removed to create a 15-foot-deep, 6-acre pond, has not been reached. After that period, the applicants agree to relinquish their rights to conduct mining on the property.
The resolution was adopted four to one. Mr. Ocean objected to the plan due to concerns about the narrow bridge on Carpenter Road, which he does not believe will stand up to the stress of five years of tri-axle truck traffic.
“I can’t imagine what that bridge will look like after 30,000 truckloads,” he said.
The document also specifies the routes trucks must take traveling in and out of the town, and the maximum number of truckloads allowed per day(40). It governs the facets of the mining operation most likely to impact the town and its closest neighbors, like hours of operation (7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.) and the fact that the mine may not operate on federal holidays.
The agreement requires log books that list truckers’ names and the volume of materials hauled, as well as times, dates and destinations; these records must be submitted to the town code enforcement officer each month. A prohibition on artificial lighting, a requirement to plant trees along the western border, and a security deposit of $5,000 for road repair are also detailed.
Mr. Molinari said after the vote that he was thrilled by the good dialogue he had had with his neighbors that led to the agreement and a resolution. He said he hopes the solution helps him and his neighbors “move to healing.”
DeWayne Powell, a close neighbor of the Molinaris and the attorney who negotiated the agreement on behalf of his neighbors, said that in addition to digging a pond and selling the gravel, Mr. Molinari “has a conservation plan and he’s designing a home he might build. We’re all comfortable that this exercise is going to result in a pond, and I hope he invites the neighbors over to swim. I don’t normally swim in ponds, but this one I will.”
“Rumors were dispelled,” said Mr. Molinari in reference to his belief that neighbors feared that his intent was to open a commercial mine instead of excavating a pond.
“Enforceability is the big thing,” said one of the neighbors.
Larry Machiz, a member of the Planning Board whom Mr. Powell credited with devising many of the specifics in the agreement, said that Mr. Molinari “has agreed not to sell to haulers who abuse the neighborhood. It’s going to be up to Vince and [Serge] Bervy to do it properly. If there’s a compliant, you can check the log book and you can see who is in violation.” Mr. Bervey will be the mine manager.
James Folsom, a new property owner on Carpenter Road said after the decision, “I’m happy to hear I’m in a new community where people can work together. I’m here for the golden moment.”