Quarry battle continues


By David Avitabile

The battle over a proposed settlement that would allow Cobleskill Stone Products to expand their Schoharie quarry is expected to continue this week.
Schoharie town board members will likely debate the proposed settlement, and, as they did last month, vote on whether to withdraw from the settlement.
In June, board members, in a 3-1 vote, agreed not to pull out of the proposed settlement.
Land-use attorney David Brennan is expected to attend this month's meeting to meet with board members in executive session.
Board members could take action on the settlement after the update.
Controversial to many residents, the settlement would end 11 years of legal wrangling that began when CSP officials announced plans to expand their quarry near Rickard Hill Road.
Board member Matt Brisley made the motion to withdraw from the settlement last month and promised a similar action again this month.
"I'll probably do that at every meeting until we break off negotiations or settle," he said Friday.
"I'll bring it up until I have seen enough or heard enough...I intent to do that until it's dead."
Councilman Brisley hopes that the other board members hear enough from the land-use attorney to make them change their minds or have them bring up the matter to a vote.
A decision on a settlement and allowing Cobleskill Stone to move forward is extremely important to the town, he added.
As a member of a town board, "almost every decision you make is reversible. This is forever."
He has been opposed to the settlement and that decision has been strengthened, Mr. Brisley added.
"To see the real version after the lawyers finished with it, after hearing everyone and getting everyone's take on it, it's not right for us and it's irreversible.
"I'm not going to be the guy that pulls the trigger (on a settlement). No way."
Almost everyone who has spoken at the hearing and meetings have been against the proposed settlement, Mr. Brisley noted.
"If there are 200, 300 people who want to settle, they need to get out and tell us."
The town does have area in Sagendorf Corners, and other places, that the mine can be expanded, he explained.
The current proposed expansion "is not in the most appropriate place," he added.
The town, he continued, needs to support its land-use laws.
"We spent all this time on the land-use law, let's go forward."
A settlement is not the way to go, he added.
"No settlement is better than a settlement. If we don't do anything this month, that's another month without selling our life away."
Councilman Jim Schultz has quite a different opinion on the issue.
On Friday, he said he was not in agreement with pulling out of the settlement.
"We still need to keep talking to them and see what we can work out," he explained.
"I still want to work on a settlement."
Schoharie has to be more business friendly, he explained.
"The village and town, we need to work with the businesses instead of fighting with them."
Mr. Schultz said he has spoken to many people about the issue and "the majority want to go through with the settlement."
He has been in the town all his life and has driven by the quarry every day."
"It's part of the community."
The company helped out after the flood and provides important tax revenue, he added.
"I'm not fighting anymore businesses coming into this area and that's a business that's here and wants to keep going...
"I want to work with them."
CSP, he noted, is supposed to mitigate the dust problem, among other issues.
"We're trying to minimize the impact."
Councilman Alan Tavenner did not want to comment much on the settlement.
"I don't have anything to add to what I've already said," he commented Friday.
"I hear what the people have said. We've got an application before us."
Supervisor Chris Tague, who works for CSP, has excused himself from the discussions and any decision, and Mr. Tavenner has been leading the discussions.
Councilman Floyd Guernsey, reached on vacation last week, declined to comment and later did not return phone calls.
At the June meeting, Councilmen Tavenner, Guernsey, and Schultz voted against pulling out of the settlement.
In April, more than 25 people spoke against the settlement that would allow CSP to expand its mining area in exchange for ending future legal battles with the town.
The ongoing legal battles have cost the town more than $500,000 in legal fees since 2005.
Besides ending the legal battle, the settlement would also end the town's opposition to expanding the mining area near Rickard Hill Road in exchange for several concessions by CSP, including a smaller expansion and a larger buffer area.
Settlement opponents have blasted these concessions, stating that a few are already required by the state or are not very beneficial for the town.
The proposed settlement notes that CSP filed plans in 2014 to downsize the quarry expansion by providing a 600-foot buffer from Warner Hill Road. Those plans are currently under review by the state.