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Reaction mixed after public hearing over zoning in Waterloo

Supporters, opponents all come out as Town of Waterloo considers zoning change

– By Josh Durso

A Public Hearing on Monday was challenged, on numerous fronts, as both sides of a controversial zoning change felt short-changed following the session.

There were supporters and opponents of the zoning change, to eliminate ‘split zoning’. The Finger Lakes Times reports that ten people spoke, and said that six of those speakers opposed the change.

One of those speakers, Michael Enslow, a Waterloo resident, and at-large representative on the Seneca County Board of Supervisors said the tone of the hearing concerned him.

“Honestly, there were a lot of disrespectful people,” he said on Tuesday. He said supporters of the zoning change were being heckled by other audience members.

Enslow says he supports the zoning change, but that support isn’t connected to Seneca Meadow’s continued effort to operate a clay mine in Waterloo.

“I support the Town’s new proposed zoning changes,” he said. “After taking a look at the current zoning as well as the proposed zoning changes, I am in support of the proposed changes by the town board.”

He says the current zoning laws hurt ‘many’ landowners and businesses. “This also greatly affects future economic development in our town which is extremely important,” he said. “I cannot stress enough that this affects many landowners and businesses.”

Enslow urged the Town Board to adopt the changes.

Concern within the community has boiled since the changes were proposed, as it could open the door for that clay mine operation to restart. The change would prevent parcels from being zoned residential closest to the road, and agriculture or commercial further away from it.

Burgess Road is the subject of that debate. It’s where the clay mine has been contested for a number of years by the Concerned Citizens of Seneca County.

Lee Henry, speaking on behalf of the Concerned Citizens, said at the meeting that the zoning change would conflict with the Comprehensive Plan in place.

“Those new zoning map amendments also will directly conflict with our goals as shown in the comprehensive plan, which states that the town should ‘amend its local laws to ensure that commercial mining is not legal in the town of Waterloo’,” he said.

The Finger Lakes Times reported that out of 10 speakers, six were opposed to the zoning change. The Concerned Citizens outlined a number of changes, instead of the proposed zoning change, which would correct the issues at play. Those included:

– Table the Amended Zoning Map for further review;

– Request that the MRB Group bring all codes up-to-date to agree with the Town’s Comprehensive Plan within 90 days;

– Include in the Zoning Code #135, a very clear and encompassing description of what “commercial mining” is understood to mean in the codes and Comprehensive Plan;

– Remove all uses from permitted land/district uses in new codes that refer to commercial mining;

– Include in the new codes a statement “Commercial Mining is not allowed in the Town of Waterloo, NY”, or a new stand alone law with the same effect; and

– After 90 days bring both the new (and or) amended new Town Zoning map., together with new codes, and present to the board for approval at a Public Hearing.

“That would stop the split zoning, restrict Seneca Meadows from mining entirely, all in concert with the comprehensive plan and with state laws that require town codes to conform to the comprehensive plan,” Henry added.

Meanwhile, Seneca Lake Guardian voiced their own concerns with the zoning change, in a letter that was intended to be read in-full at the meeting.

Seneca Lake Guardian is a Waterkeeper Affiliate, and dedicated to preserving and protecting the health of the Finger Lakes. “We represent nearly 500 regional businesses and hundreds of thousands of Finger Lakes residents who strive to protect and preserve the Finger Lakes region’s clean air, water, and soil for generations to come,” the letter started. “We are writing tonight to express our opposition to the re-zoning of Burgess Road for the benefit of Seneca Meadows. The proposed changes put the south end of Burgess Road near North Road into an R2 — or medium-density — residential zone and the area further north into an agricultural/undeveloped zone. If adopted, the town would be able to determine what uses would be allowed in those zones, and therefore could allow the access roads for clay mining desired by the Seneca Meadows landfill.”

“One of our many concerns, in addition to that of catering to a landfill that has grown to excess, caused countless environmental problems in the region and detracted from the health and beauty of the Finger Lakes, is the fine particulate matter of the clay. Clay dust consists of particulate matter which is 2.5 PM. Dust from clay contains some free silica that is too fine and heavy to be expelled from the lungs. Over time this can cause fatal silicosis if inhaled often enough. The negative effects from clay mining can also include air and water pollution, soil erosion, and water contamination,” the letter read.

“Seneca Lake Guardian urges the Town of Waterloo Board Members to effectively stop the split-zoning, and restrict any zoning changes that could permit Seneca Meadows’ mining. This action is in keeping with the Town’s Comprehensive Plan, and supports your constituents’ and surrounding neighbors wishes to close SMI and discourage any expansion or continuation of its operations,” SLG added.