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Wassaic mining project before Town Board

AMENIA — Ridgecrest Farms updated the Town Board on Thursday, March 17, as to its progress on the environmental analysis section of an application to include property in southern Wassaic in the town’s Soil Mining Overlay District.Company owner and president Ian Holback purchased 144 acres of land off Sinpatch Road in Wassaic from Listening Rock Farm owner Allan Shope for a future gravel mining business. Of those 144 acres, only 65 are part of the application for a zoning amendment.Since an original presentation back in February 2010, the applicant’s attorney, Donald Cappillino, has been working with several town consultants on the various environmental impacts the project could have. The project will be following the State Environmental Quality Review Act [SEQRA] process, and Cappillino said that his client has been working to address any concerns that the consultants may have.Cappillino said the board has been given a packet with “a significant amount of site-specific information, including a traffic analysis of Sinpatch Road, a very thorough visual impact assessment, an archeological study and a wildlife study.”Visual impacts were briefly touched upon, with the applicant showing an analysis from two strategic viewpoints: the highest elevationfrom the nearby Wassaic Multiple Use Area and also the view from Castle Gate Park, where multiple residences could have a view of the mining operation.“It will be very well screened,” Cappillino assured the board. “There are very few people who will see this project going on.“It all indicates that the property is well suited for [the Soil Mining Overlay District] and for us to move forward with this,” he concluded.Cappillino pointed out a number of benefits the applicant anticipates from the mining business, including local job creation and the local materials that could be utilized by the town’s highway department. There would also be an expected increase in the value of the property.Shope, who was in attendance at the March 17 meeting but did not speak, had previously explained to the board that the agreement between Holback and himself was to protect the property with a conservation easement to prevent future development. The property sold to Holback was part of three properties (including Listening Rock Farm) that Shope and his wife, Julie, purchased from the state in 2000, including land where the former Taconic State DDSO (Developmental Disabilities Services Offices) was located.Cappillino said the applicant was submitting a draft Environmental Assessment Form (EAF) for inspection by the town and its consultants. The attorney said the goal would be to begin a line-by-line review of the document, addressing any concerns, and then “hopefully coming back with a final version of the environmental review.”Cappillino stressed that site plan review and more details on the structure of the proposal would be saved for a later date, after environmental issues were adequately addressed.Attorney to the Town Michael Hayes said that the applicant has set up an escrow account from which the town’s consultants are being paid.

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