What's the project?
Troy Sand & Gravel is seeking permits
to open an industrial hard rock quarry to mine 88 acres
of a 214 acre lot. They want to mine an unspecified amount
of greywacke sandstone from a large hill located in the
center of an area bordered by state routes 43 and 66, Dunham
Hollow Road and Gardner Hill Road. The lot is owned by Hankle
So what's the big deal?
Several years ago, when the folks who
own Hankle Lumber in Hoags Corners purchased a large piece
of land in Dunham Hollow., they stated publicly they weren't
going to mine it (see the Independent article in "Resources").
They even promised not to clear cut the property! It was
supposed to be a "sustainable forestry" operation.
Fast forward to 2004! Hankle is in a partnership with Troy
Sand & Gravel to develop a massive hard rock mining
operation on the land--a project that, if approved, will
lead to the destruction of the quality of life for hundreds,
perhaps thousands, of citizens in rural residential Rensselaer
County and forever alter the political , economic and environmental
landscape for future generations.
To add insult to injury, this ill-advised project is clearly
against the law according to local zoning.
What's wrong with an industrial
hard rock quarry?
There are a lot of reasons why people
who live in a rural residential area wouldn't want a massive
mining operation nearby. The potential problems include:
- Traffic. There will be a major increase in the
number of large trucks travelling to and from the mine
to the Troy Sand & Gravel plant in West Sand Lake.
As the quarry grows, so too will traffic. This poses a
potential danger to the many school buses that travel
on the same route, as well as creating frustrating "rolling
roadblocks" during rush hour for folks commuting
- Declining property values. No one wants to live
near an industrial quarry. No one wants to deal with heavy
truck traffic on a daily basis. As the desireability of
an area decreases, so too do property values.
- Visual impacts. The quarry site is visible from
many homes in the surrounding area. Many residents moved
here because of the beauty of this region. A quarry is
the midst of it all will destroy what many people live
here for, and forever change the natural landscape.
- Air pollution. Blasting, drilling and rock crushing
can produce silica dust--which is harmful to people with
asthma and can cause severe lung damage.
- Groundwater contamination. If--as appears to
be the case--the proposed mine extends below the water
table, it could affect wells in the surrounding area.
Residue from explosives, spilled fuel, and other chemicals
could seep into the ground water.
- Surface water contamination. In addition to carrying
residue from explosives, spilled fuel, and other chemicals,
runoff from the site could silt up nearby streams and
other bodies of water.
- Noise. Hard rock quarrying involves very loud
operations. Drilling in preparation for blasting could
go on for 12 hours a day, and would be heard over great
distances. The blasting necessary to loosen hard rock
would be heard for miles around. And the constant noise
of rock crushers, operating up to 12 hours a day, would
be heard far from the mine site. Local residents living
within miles of the Lebanon Valley Speedway can testify
as to how far sound travels in these hills. And the noise
wouldn't just bother humans--wildlife would be affected
- Vibration. The enormous explosions associated
with hard rock mining are known to crack foundations and
destroy drilled wells miles away. Folks living close to
a quarry often find dishes and other shelved objects on
the floor after a blast.
- Dangerous precedents. Once an area is being mined,.
it is no longer pristine. If this proposed industrial
mine penetrates local zoning, others will follow close
- Scale-up. As the folks in West Sand Lake who
live near Troy Sand & Gravel well know, residents
quickly lose control over what happens once an industrial
mining operation is under way. There is little to prevent
the miner from vastly expanding the scope of a project,
adding new operations, processing on-site, and sending
trucks in new directions over previously undisclosed routes.
This is not idle speculation--Troy Sand & Gravel has
repeatedly violated the terms of its permits at existing
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These are local businesses.
Can't we trust them?
No. The public record shows a history
of dishonesty and environmental violations that have made
life living hell for those living near by existing operations.
In the Towns of West Sand Lake and Stephentown, residents
have engaged in litigation against Troy Sand & Gravel
And even if we thought we could trust
them, remember the transfer station at the corner of Routes
66 and 351? Started by a local family, it was soon sold
to a huge conglomerate. Within a matter of months, what
started as a small-scale local business had become the regional
hub for a multi-national corporation. And the nightmare
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Don't we need economic development
in this area?
Of course we do! But large-scale industrial
mining isn't development. It's exploitation!
Industrial mining brings no significant
economic benefits to a community--it's a highly automated
industry with virtually no fixed plant, so we can expect
few new jobs, little additional tax revenue. But we can
expect noise, vibration, dust, traffic, visual impacts,
declining property values... and more mines, if this one
successfully penetrates our zoning restrictions.
Think about it--if industrial mining comes in, every working
person in the area who depends on a stable residential community
is going to be in trouble. If people stop building and renovating
homes (and who would build or renovate near a quarry, where
property values are plunging?), contractors will sit idle.
Everyone who depends on consumers for their livelihood--shops,
gas stations, restaurants, propane/heating oil/firewood
vendors--will lose customers as homeowners abandon the area.
The only folks left behind will be those who cannot afford
to take a loss on their home to sell it.
And what do we get in exchange for the destruction of our
residential tax base? Whatever truck drivers spend on coffee
and cigarettes on their way to and from the mine.
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If not mining, what?
We need development that builds on
our strengths--not projects to blow them up and cart them
away! This is a beautiful area--a safe, clean environment
with good schools and a great quality of life. We have to
preserve and build on that! People have lived here for generations
because this is a great place to live--and new residents
are moving here for the same reason. This area needs a master
plan to keep the things we cherish, and keep out the things
that will destroy them.
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Isn't mining a necessary evil
to get material for construction and road building?
Sure, to an extent. But the explosion
(literally!) of mining in rural Rensselaer County isn't
about need--it's about greed. There are plenty of mines
in operation already in Rensselaer County--more than 60
covering nearly 1,500 acres (see Ken Dufty's letter in "Resources").
But most of the cost of providing rock, gravel and sand
is in transportation, so to maximize their profits these
companies want a mine on every corner. At the expense of
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It's their property. Why should
Because what they do with their property
affects your property. And your family, friends, neighbors
and the environment. If they are allowed to open this mine,
property values will plummet (who wants to live next to
a hard rock mine?). As assessments drop, so too will tax
revenues. Schools and local government will be forced to
raise taxes to make up for lost revenue. So the local real
estate market will be saddled with under-valued homes burdened
with excessive taxes. The recipe for a downward spiral.
The impact of this operation extends far beyond the folks
unfortunate enough to live near the mine. Heavy trucks loaded
with rock will be barrelling down highways throughout the
area, sharing the road with commuters and school buses.
And noise, vibration, dust and other environmental problems
will blanket the region.
It's not as though local residents haven't been through
enough to convince them that one person's property rights
stop where their neighbors' begin. For example, the enormous
Superfund site on the western boundary of Nassau at the
former Dewey Loeffel Landfill has poisoned the groundwater
with deadly volatile organic compounds and all of Nassau
Lake with PCBs. That was one man exercising his property
rights at a remote, swampy location on a back road in Nassau.
He made a lot of money. His neighbors and his neighbor's
children are still paying for his success, fifty years later.
Nassau doesn't need another environmental disaster on its
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Maybe they didn't understand
the local zoning?
Oh sure. They paid a reported $500,000 to buy property
without checking to see whether industrial mining is a permitted
use. Here's what anyone with $4 to spend for the Town of
Nassau's "Land Use and Development Regulations"
would find out about the Town's "Rural Residential"
zoning (under which the proposed quarry site falls):
RURAL RESIDENTIAL. The Rural Residential District is
established to maintain and protect the open, rural character,
environmental quality and natural habitat of these parts
of the Town while allowing for a mixture of housing types,
opportunities and home occupations, and to provide for current
and future residents the opportunities for a wide range
of activities including rural living, agriculture, forestry,
recreation and the enjoyment of wildlife.
In other words, no industrial rock quarries allowed on
the site. Period.
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But they claim mining is a
Yes, mining is a permitted use. For homeowners who need
a few pickup truck loads of gravel for their driveway. For
farmers who need some sand for their fields. The intent
of the zoning regulations is to allow traditional land uses
to support the character of the community--but even then
requiring a special use permit for mining. Here's the law
regarding special use permits for mining:
Such special use shall be restricted to a total disturbed
area of five (5) acres (i.e., an aggregate of no more than
three (3) or more stages) and to a maximum time period of
no more than three (3) years, with a lesser area and/or
period established as deemed necessary by the Town Board
to assure a satisfactory program of operations and rehabilitation.
Five acres, three years. In other words, mining 88 acres
over 50 years is not allowed. Period.
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So what is going on here?
Simple. Some unethical business people are trying to exploit
what they think is a weak local law. They bought some land
knowing full well their intended use of it is not allowed,
and are now claiming they didn't understand the established
land use restrictions when they purchased it. They will
use their lawyers to threaten the Town and intimidate neighbors,
attempting to bully their way past laws protecting the community.
It's up to us to stop them. We can, and will!
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How can this be happening to
Sadly, there are some people who will do anything to anyone
to make a buck. Even their own neighbors! Their view of
life is that from 9 to 5, anything goes. Then they return
to their own families, their communities, their church,
their Little League. To them, we're just a cost of doing
business. So we depend on our elected officials to protect
us--but they live on the other side of town, and figure
that if something bad is going to happen it might as well
happen far from their own homesand families. So we turn
to NY State--and find that the agencies charged with regulating
industry are dominated by the industries they're supposed
And we feel bad about our situation--until we realize that
we do have the power to control our own destiny. We can
organize, fight, and win. Others have; we can too.
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I heard some folks were asked
to leave RAM meetings. Why?
Employees and contractors of Troy Sand & Gravel attemped
to infiltrate early organizing meetings of the Residents
Against Mining. They were asked to leave. Do you imagine
that Troy Sand & Gravel would allow RAM members into
its meetings about how to circumvent local zoning?
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What right do I have to information
about this project?
Under the Freedom of Information Law enacted in 1978, you
have the right to be informed about the operation of your
government. With some exceptions noted below, all meetings
of the Town boards and committees are open to the public.
Minutes of all meetings are kept and you are entitled to
Decisions made by the Town Board, Planning Board and the
Zoning Board of Appeals are made by formal resolution, and
are included in the minutes of their meetings. The Open
Meetings Law (also called the "sunshine" law)
went into effect in 1977. This law gives you the right to
hear the deliberations and decisions of public bodies. A
"meeting" is defined as "the official convening
of a public body for the purpose of conducting public business."
The law only provides for closed or "executive"
sessions when the Board must discuss matters which will
imperil the public safety if disclosed, would disclose the
identity of a law enforcement agency or informer, to discuss
information relating to current or future investigations,
discussions regarding proposed, pending or current litigation,
collective negotiations, the employment history of a particular
person, preparation, grading or administration and the proposed
acquisition or sale or lease of real property.
In the absence of litigation, it's hard to imagine a circumstance
in which the Town of Nassau legally could withhold information
about, or restrict access to meetings about, the current
controversity over industrial hard rock mining.
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How can I keep up with what's
Simple--join the Residents Against Mining email list! It's
a non-commercial, very low traffic (announcements only)
list to keep you posted on meetings and important developments
in the struggle against industrial mining. We promise not
to share your email address, and you can remove yourself
from the list whenever you wish. Just send an email to subscribe@ResidentsAgainstMining.org
and we'll hook you up! You can help us out by sharing our
Big Thunder Newsblasts with family, friends and neighbors
without email access.
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How can I help?
Thought you'd never ask! There are
a number of things you can do to help:
- Join Residents Against Mining! By becoming part of this
group, you strengthen the citizens' movement working to
protect this community. It's only $10 a year! Send a check
payable to RAM with your name, address, telephone and
email information to: Residents Against Mining; PO Box
761; Averill Park, NY 12018
- Make a contribution to Residents Against Mining! We're
prepared to fight for this community by any means necessary,
including through the legal system. That's going to take
more money than we can raise through $10 membership dues!
If you can afford it, consider making a $100 donation.
If you can afford more, please send it along; if you can
only afford a few dollars, that's fine, too. Do what you
can--RAM represents folks of all means. Contact RAM for
information on how you can make a tax-deductable contribution
(donations@ResidentsAgainstMining.org), or if that's not
important to you just send a check payable to RAM with
your name, address, telephone and email information to:
Residents Against Mining; PO Box 761; Averill Park, NY
- Contact your elected officials, politely explain your
concerns, and ask them to take a public position in opposition
to large scale, industrial mining in your community. Remember
that they're not necessarily up-to-speed on these issues
and may have only heard the mis-information spread by
the mining industry, so a calm, respectful explanation
of your views could help bring them around. Getting angry
at them and name-calling is unlikely to help, and might
even be counter-productive!
- Stop by Troy Sand & Gravel and Hankle Lumber. Tell
them (politely!) that they're being unneighborly! Their
public record for truthfulness isn't very encouraging,
so take what they tell you with a shaker of salt. But
let them know that the people in the community with whom
they do business are... disappointed.
- Attend public hearings, town board meetings and the
regular meetings of Residents Against Mining to support
your neighbors in the struggle for sane public policy
in our communities!
- Tell all your family, friends and neighbors about this
fight and ask them to join Residents Against Mining. Together
we can protect one another!
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