Cobleskill Stone wins right to quarry


By David Avitabile

Cobleskill Stone Products won a battle in its attempt to expand it mining operations in the Town of Schoharie but still has not won the war.
Albany County Supreme Court Judge Eugene Devine ruled earlier this month that the company has the right to quarry the expansion area near Rickard Hill Road despite the town’s 2005 town zoning law prohibiting mining in that area.
Though Cobleskill Stone has a right to mine on the 69-acre parcel, it still has not been determined whether they have the legal right to do so.
The company’s mine reclamation permit is still before the state DEC for approval and has been for some time.
“Whether CSP can prevail in its administrative appeal with the DEC is uncertain and is not a controlling factor in the present discussion,” Judge Devine wrote in his decision.
Town officials will have to determine whether they want to appeal the decision to the Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court.
Albany attorney David Brennan has represented the town in the case for several years and said he is in the process of evaluating the Judge’s decision and will give town officials a recommendation.
Though Judge Devine ruled that the company has vested rights to mine despite the 2005 zoning, the ruling, Mr. Brennan said, does not address that under the prior zoning regulations, any mining is subject to the special use process.
It is not known how long it will take for the DEC to rule on Cobleskill Stone’s mining permit, he said.
The DEC recommended a denial of the reclamation permit, Mr. Brennan said, and it remains in the office of an administrative law judge at the DEC.
Cobleskill Stone purchased the additional 69 acres in 2000 and began geological studies to obtain a DEC mining permit in 2004.
The company submitted an application for a modification of its mining permit in January 2005. After many residents voiced their opposition to the planned expansion, the town passed a law in August 2005 prohibiting mining as a permissible land use in the rural-agricultural district in which the expansion is located.
Emil Galasso, president of Cobleskill Stone, told the court that purchasing the expansion area and the permit application to the DEC cost the company over $1 million.
Town officials pointed out the potential impact on nearby sites and “the overall character of the surrounding community. In addition, since the current mining area is separated from the expansion area by Rickard Hill Road, “the extension of a prior nonconforming use is not permissible.”
The Judge ruled, “As the existence of a roadway does not serve as a per se barrier to the extension of CSP’s nonconforming use into the southeastern parcel, the Court finds and determines that it has established its vested rights claim.”