Hannibal gravel mine fight packs town hall, sparks legal action

W.D. Malone attorney Michael Fogel addresses the Hannibal town planning board at last week's public hearing to debate a site plan for the creation of a gravel mine on Harris Hill Road. 

HANNIBAL — Contractors W.D. Malone Trucking and Excavating are awaiting the Hannibal town planning board’s decision on a special use permit for a 5.8-acre gravel mine on Harris Hill Road despite protest from residents adjacent to the site.

The contentious gravel mine construction proposal was the subject of a recent Hannibal planning board public hearing where nearly 50 locals crowded Hannibal town hall and aired grievances ranging from environmental and noise pollution impacts to the generation of excess traffic.

Speakers were allotted three minutes to address the planning board regarding the 485 Harris Hill Rd. site, which has sparked a firestorm of controversy in the sleepy western Oswego County town. Four members of the planning board resigned last month in protest of the town’s handling of the situation.

Hannibal resident Bill Scott said the creation of the gravel mine would equal a transgression against “inalienable rights” established by the United States’s founding principles — legal protection of property and the “pursuit of happiness.”

 “You’re in a difficult situation,” he said to the board. “Here’s the problem — when your happiness interferes with my happiness. That’s why we have rules and regulations.”

If approved, the mining site would operate from April through November, according to attorney Michael Fogel, representing W.D. Malone Trucking and Excavating. Fogel said the site’s hours of operation would be 7 a.m. to 6 p.m on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturdays, with no operation on Sundays.

Fogel said W.D. Malone would use the mine site in accordance with demands of the gravel market, which fluctuates throughout the year.

“Mining is a function of market demand,” Fogel said. “There’s times when it’s busier than others, and there’s times when it’s slower than others.”

The planning board has until Oct. 1 to decide whether or not to issue the special use permit. According to Fogel and county real property tax records, 485 Harris Hill Rd. currently owned by David Emmons and Earl D. Hoffman. The property is assessed at $153,000. Fogel said the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has reviewed the site plan and determined it “won’t have significant impact on the environment.”

“That’s significant because the DEC is a state agency and has primary authority and jurisdiction over mining operations in the state,” Fogel said.

Pursuant to state and local mandates, Fogel said his client would mitigate dust from the site and surrounding roads with material stockpiles. Noise impacts would be “effectively minimized” through the use of muffling machinery.

“With respect to the traffic, [the review] determined that truck traffic generated by operations of the mine will not have a significant impact on traffic on the local roads,” Fogel said, prompting an outburst of laughter from the attendants.

The DEC will conduct periodic site analyses to ensure these mandates are followed, according to Fogel.

Nearby residents, however, say the gravel mine would impose pollution from dust and noise, as well as increase traffic and lower the property values of nearby homes.

Following a July 11 meeting when a motion to accept W.D. Malone’s special use permit application was approved, four planning board members — Kelly LaRock, Bob Dilts, Josh Bomgren and Sue de Mey — resigned from their positions in protest against the decision, alleging that the town is overlooking zoning laws and code enforcement provisions. Despite the resignations coming at the same time, the now-ex-board members claim it was not a coordinated effort.

“This board is an administrative board responsible for administering the zoning laws. This is not a subjective task — follow the law,” said LaRock, herself a Harris Hill Road resident, in her address to the planning board.

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