Schoharie still considering Cobleskill Stone deal


By David Avitabile

Schoharie Town Board members agreed Wednesday to continue considering a settlement with Cobleskill Stone on a quarry expansion.
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.
On Wednesday, after getting an update on the proposed settlement and hearing several more residents speak against it, Councilman Matt Brisley announced, "The public has made itself clear," and made a motion that the town "pull out of the settlement."
Most of the 30 residents who attended the meeting Wednesday at the town hall stood, applauded and cheered the motion, but their elation was short-lived.
The motion was seconded but was defeated as only Councilman Brisley voted in favor of the motion and three voted against.
This does not mean that the settlement was approved. The town's land-use attorney is expected to meet with town board members next month. Another vote by the board in July is possible.
Councilmen Alan Tavenner, Floyd Guernsey, and James Schultz voted against pulling out of the settlement.
Mr. Tavenner added that he was "not ready to pull the plug on this."
He noted that the land-use attorney who helped prepare the settlement, "doesn't have an agenda to settle," though the lawyer is not confident of winning any future lawsuits with CSP.
Supervisor Chris Tague, who works for CSP, has excused himself from the discussions and any decision, and Mr. Tavenner has been leading the discussions.
Though Mr. Tague did not speak during the discussion on the settlement, he did remain at the board table and several residents called for him to leave the room.
Mr. Tague responded by saying that he is a tax-paying resident of the town.
One resident noted that the supervisor could influence the vote by remaining in the room.
Mr. Tague countered by saying that he has never spoken with any of the board members about the settlement.
Before Councilman Brisley made his motion to pull out of the settlement, Councilman Tavenner gave an update.
Land-use attorney David Brennan is expected to attend the July 13 town meeting to meet with board members in executive session.
Board members have not discussed the settlement as a group, Mr. Tavenner added.
The discussion about the settlement cannot go on forever, but another month should not make a difference, Mr. Tavenner said.
"Everyone wants a decision sooner rather than later," he added, "It feels like something hanging over your head."
Resident Bob Montione asked if board members have decided whether to get a second opinion on the settlement.
Board members have not requested a second opinion, but it is something to consider, Mr. Tavenner responded.
Resident Emily Davis and Marty Messner both spoke out against the settlement.
The town, Ms. Davis said, should not give up its rights in the settlement agreement.
The biggest issue is the health and safety of the students at the school, said Mr. Messner, a former teacher at Schoharie school.
"Everyone has a right to clean air...Putting a mine expansion next to a school is a really really, bad idea."
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.