Experts, residents testify in Cemento permit saga

The town of Skaneateles began the long process of public hearings last week in regard to mining when the board opened the proceedings with testimony from Hiscock and Barclay attorney Andrew Leja, council for Cemento, LLC.

The hearings, held at the Skaneateles Fire Department, drew residents from throughout the town who listened to comments from both sides of the fence.

According to Leja, the corporation has received final approval of site plans from the town planning board. Now it is up to the town board to determine if the applicant has followed code. Leja said if the applicant has followed town code and met all conditions, they should receive their permit.

The burden of proof is on the applicant's shoulders.

"Here we're asking the board for a permit for use for something that has been deemed permissible by the town," he said.

Leja added that the plans have already been determined to be compatible and they have met the conditions set forth by the town's code.

"Bring an end to what has been an very arduous process," he said.

The area in which Cemento is proposing to open the mine -- Shepard Settlement -- is largely agricultural and has been host to many mines over the years. Leja said John Shepard, founder of the small neighborhood, had even operated a mine in the area at one time.

Leja set out to explain how Cemento has complied thus far with the town code citing such things as their application to mine, which was filed in January 2006 and involved Cemento's investigation of the site. The site, Leja said, has the types of sand and gravel for making cement and concrete.

"You can't pick a hill and start digging and expect to find gravel," he said.

From the time Cemento filed its application to the time of the hearing, the town passed a moratorium on mining that lasted 11 months and also adopted what has been termed the "Orange Alternative." Then the moratorium expired and the town decided mining was permitted, which resulted in the Open Pit Mining Overlay District and adjusted the boundaries of such mining.

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