Concerned Citizens of Cattaraugus County and Harold Michaels have challenged the expansion of the Giardini Bros. Construction Company gravel mine. Mr. Michaels is the owner of the Meadowbrook Colony, a 48-unit mobile home park located on Gargoyle Road in Allegany adjacent to the gravel mine.
In 2006 Giardini obtained a permit to expand from the Department of Environmental Conservation, followed by city and town approvals to start a new gravel mine in Olean, expand the company’s mine on Gargoyle Road in Allegany, and haul newly mined materials from Olean to the Allegany site. The lawsuit contends that under local law the Allegany site may expand only by observing a 500 foot buffer from Meadowbrook Colony, and in Olean zoning prohibits gravel mining.
“Former Mayor Quinlan made it clear to DEC that gravel mining is illegal in Olean, and the Allegany Planning Board wrote to DEC saying Giardini must not operate within 500 feet of Meadowbrook Colony,” according to Concerned Citizens president Barry Miller. “But at the end of the process the local boards in both municipalities read the local laws differently so as to approve the mining. We think they did not have the power to do that.”
For several years Mr. Michaels has been receiving regular complaints from residents about noise and dust from the mine. “The mine interferes with their ability to breathe, and noise from mining operations is annoying,” according to Mr. Michaels. “The least the town can do is enforce its setback requirement.”
Concerned Citizens wants to preserve recreational and environmental green space between the flood protection dike and the Allegheny river, where gravel mining would be expanded. The City of Olean zoned the area as a Waterfront Conservation District in order to promote development of recreation along the river.
“The neighborhood is dominated by the dike, the River Trail, and Gargoyle Park, all heavily used by the public,” according to Miller. “If these decisions stand, further green development cannot take place for 35 years, and then the area would become a private campground for the Giardini family, closed to the public.”
The existing 20.5 acre gravel mine at the "West Site" in Allegany would be enlarged to 52 acres and operate for 50 years. Gravel sorting and cleaning adjacent to Meadowbrook would include materials hauled in from Olean ("East Site"), where 36 acres would be excavated for 28 years.
, violates the zoning code, which designates the area a "Waterfront Conservation District," where new development must be “in harmony with the conservation of the district’s general recreational and open space character and the historic environmental areas adjacent to the creek and river.” Click here for the relevant section of the code. However, earlier this year the Olean Zoning Board of Appeals granted a use variance that purports to allow mining. The southwest corner of the active mining operation at the West Site would be 125 feet from the Allegheny River Valley Trail. (see the red arrow above)
Some specific problems with the Giardini site in Olean:
DEC found that Trichloroethene (TCE), a known carcinogen, does NOT contaminate groundwater east of the site, but trace amounts of another carcinogen, Trichloroethane (TCA), does. However, despite the fact that the Olean site would be excavated 50 feet below the water table, only surface water was tested; no groundwater testing was required.
A new haul route must cross Gargoyle Rd. The City granted the company permission to cross City-owned land in Allegany to bring heavy equipment to the Olean mine site.
According to Giardini Bros.' application to DEC (EAF, item B9), no jobs would be created.
Although new and larger excavation equipment would be brought in, future noise and dust impacts are said to be insignificant.
At the conclusion of their review, DEC found that the site will be reclaimed after 50 years "for the Giardini family's private use"; no public access will be allowed.
DEC also found gravel mining is prohibited at the Olean site under the local zoning code, and the company must obtain re-zoning. However, the company never sought rezoning and Olean's ZBA granted a variance.
In the Town of Allegany, the area is zoned for agricultural and forest land use (A-F). The Town Code says:
"The A-F District is designed to preserve farmland and woodlands." The Town Code also prohibits excavation and stockpiling of mined materials within 500 feet of a dwelling unless the resident consents in writing. Giardini Bros. Constr. Co. never obtained consent from Meadowbrook Colony mobile home park residents, but the Town approved a zoning permit anyway.
The irregularities in Olean and Allegany zoning approvals are being challenged by CCCC and Meadowbrook owner Harold Michaels in a lawsuit filed on November 6, 2006. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Tues., November 14 at 9:00 AM in the Supreme Court at Little Valley. The complaint and supporting affidavits are available for download or viewing from the list below.