Opponents applaud Schoharie's "no" to Cobleskill Stone settlement


By David Avitabile

To a standing ovation, Schoharie town board members Wednesday agreed not to accept a proposed settlement with Cobleskill Stone Products.
After board members voted 3-1 to turn down the settlement, the room filled with 60 people erupted in applause. Many people stood and cheered. Residents shook the hands of board members and one lady even kissed Councilman Floyd Guernsey on the head.
Board members voted 3-1 not to accept the settlement which would have allowed CSP to expand its quarry and ended nearly 11 years of litigation between the town and the village.
Councilmen Matt Brisley, who made the motion to turn down the settlement, Alan Tavenner, and Mr. Guernsey voted not to accept the settlement. Councilman James Schultz voted against the motion.
Supervisor Chris Tague, who works for CSP, has excused himself from the discussions and any decision, and Councilman Tavenner has been leading the discussions. Mr. Tague left the room before the vote.
Board members had very little discussion before the vote, which came at the end of Wednesday's meeting.
Councilman Tavenner did state that he was influenced by the overwhelming comments on the issue.
Controversial to many residents, the settlement would have ended 11 years of legal wrangling that began when CSP officials announced plans to expand their quarry near Rickard Hill Road.
George Sparks was one of several residents to comment on the issue before the vote.
The town has a good land-use law and the town should "not throw it out." He urged the board to "do what's best for the town."
Another woman noted that it is very hard for property owners to get a building permit and "we're going to allow this guy to expand without a permit?"
The proposed settlement would have had several stipulations and concessions, noted Councilman Tavenner.
He did add that several residents were very skeptical about those concessions and stipulations.
Due to a pending trial in October, board members were basically forced to make a decision this month.
Board members, Councilman Tavenner had explained, needed to make a decision in August since the next trial date with CSP on land-use issues is scheduled to begin in the end of October.
If the decision is delayed until September, the town's lawyers may not have time to properly prepare for the trial.
This was the third time that Councilman Brisley made a motion to end the settlement discussion.
Board members turned down that motion in June and when he made the same motion in July, but there was no second and it was not voted upon.
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.
Besides ending the legal battle, the settlement would have ended 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 n