Mining digs up tensions in Rhinebeck

Red Wing Properties’ application to renew a mining permit for 234-286 White Schoolhouse Road in Rhinebeck has run up against some official local road blocks.

At the planning board’s March 3 public hearing on the permit renewal, board chair Michael Trimble announced that a private road historically used by Red Wing mine operators would no longer be open to them. The apparent handshake agreement that had allowed the use has now been revoked by the owner of the road, Steven Lobotsky, according to Trimble.

A week later, at the town board’s March 10 meeting, Trimble, as a private citizen, suggested to board members that they could amend the zoning code to allow existing mines only, with no expansions.

The planning board’s public hearing March 3 was to review a mining permit that the state Department of Environmental Conservation—which oversees mining state-wide—has already approved. The town must also issue a permit and has control over the entrance and exit of the mine, its hours of operation and the use of town roads by mining trucks.

Trimble read six letters from neighbors to the project, all opposed to the application, to the group of about 30 residents and several mine representatives. Since the initial public hearing on the permit in January, the board has received dozens more, according to the planning office. Many referred to Stormville-based Red Wing as a large corporation and compared it unfavorably to the smaller operations, run by local families, that used to run the 37.5-acre mine.

Decreasing property values, public safety on roads, and the difficulties of enforcing limitations on the mining operations and trucking were some of the main themes of complaint in the letters.

Also of concern was another permit application now before the DEC that would allow a more than 100-acre expansion of the current mining operation.

The 237-acre property has been mined by various local operators since 1989. It officially was sold to Red Wing in February 2013, but state Office of Real Property documents on the transaction show that the sale price was “zero” and the sale was labeled “between related companies or partners in business.” The property is assessed at $2,153,700.

According to DEC documents, the previous owner, Vincent Kinlan, applied for a 141-acre expansion, including an 84-acre lake, in 2008. But the application has been delayed multiple times by DEC concerns about wildlife in the area, such as protected Blandings turtles, and other environmental impacts.

At the planning board hearing, Theresa Villardi, who moved to White Schoolhouse Road in 1995, said, “The letters that were read tonight speak for myself and my neighbors on White Schoolhouse Road and Bollenbecker Road. We, too, fell in love with the rural landscape just three miles from Rhinebeck village.”

She said residents were never informed that Red Wing had purchased the property from Kinlan or that the DEC was reviewing a permit renewal application.

“We wish [Red Wing] well, but we don’t want them here on this road,” she said, adding that she and others could not ignore Red Wing’s separate application to expand the mine to 141 acres even though the current local hearings are only about approval for the existing 37.5 acre mine; the expansion will only come before the local planning board once it passes the DEC.

After other residents asked Red Wing owner Frank Doherty, Jr., how many trucks were going in and out, Doherty replied there have not been many recently due to the slow economy.

Steve Lobotsky of 186 White Schoolhouse Rd., who owns the only road that provides access to truck traffic to the mine, responded that truck traffic is one of his main concerns. “The economy has been slow now, it’s been real slow, not a lot of trucks…[But] when they redid Route 308…10-12 years ago, there was a truck every five minutes for six weeks. Nobody policed that…that whole policing thing, it doesn’t happen,” he said.

Lobotsky did not comment publicly on why he has withdrawn his agreement on road access.

The consulting geologist for Red Wing, Paul Griggs, said the company would send the records they have on mine access, such as a road use agreement, to the planning board before its next meeting. Trimble noted, however, that research of county records had shown that there was no public record of an access agreement

The board agreed to continue the public hearing until April 7.

At the town board meeting March 10, Trimble then spoke to the board members as a resident, not as planning board chair. He said he lives on Slate Quarry Road, just south of the mine site, and has become concerned about the mine’s expansion, its permit renewal and safety issues of large trucks on the twisty, rural roads in the area.

“It will destroy an absolutely magnificent area… This is one of the richest resource areas of town,” he said, noting that the Landsman Kill stream flows through the property.

He also said that the 84-acre lake proposed in Red Wing’s expansion application could expose an important Type 1 aquifer to Dutchess County’s poor air quality, and threaten the water supply. A Type 1 aquifer is composed of sand and gravel, which allows water to pass through quickly; that composition also makes the soil good for mining.

Trimble suggested that the board consider redefining the zoning maps for the area to coincide with section 15.16 of the town’s comprehensive plan. According to Trimble, the plan, passed in 2009, allows only mines with current DEC permits within the town’s borders. This would mean no future expansion, and if the zoning maps were amended, he said, the DEC would have to follow that guideline in their permitting process as well and deny the current application for expanded mining.

Louis Amaru, a White Schoolhouse Rd resident, spoke next. “I really want to thank Michael for his very forceful, eloquent and even elegant presentation. We are all very grateful,” he said, to a round of applause.

Town Supervisor Elizabeth Spinzia said she had received a petition of almost 380 signatures and about 48 emails on the subject, all opposed to the mine’s continued existence and expansion. “Thank you for making us aware and coming tonight,” she said to 11 neighbors at the meeting.

The board asked town land attorney John Lyons to draw up a zoning map amendment for the board’s review that would accomplish what Trimble had suggested. The amendment is expected to be reviewed at the board’s April 28 meeting. A public hearing is also required as part of the SEQR process before the amendment can be approved.

Red Wing Properties Vice President Eileen Doherty told the Observer last week that the company bought the property on White Schoolhouse Road because it had been mined in the past.

“Mining in that area of Rhinebeck has co-existed with the residents for many, many, many years. We’re not looking to disturb that balance, we don’t see that we are going to… We have a very good reputation,” she said.

Doherty also said Red Wing itself has 15 employees but is a subsidiary of a group of several different companies, including Stormville Trucking and Package Pavement, which has 180 employees all together. Red Wing has another mine on Spring Lake Road in Milan and a shipping yard in Billings at a former mine site.

She said Red Wing supplies sand and gravel throughout the county. “Sand and gravel mining is being zoned out everywhere in Dutchess County, which means that in the future, all of the necessary things for building houses will have to come from places like Saratoga Springs,” Doherty said.

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