I recently attended an Oneida County Board of Adjustment meeting where the board unanimously upheld the county supervisors' prior approval of an industrial gravel pit expansion in downtown Hazelhurst. It was obvious that the board members had made up their minds before the meeting. Indeed, although the agenda provided for "public comment," the board decided that too many of us showed up prepared to speak. So the members decided that only 5 attendees would speak and they initially limited each speaker to one minute.
I did not get a chance to speak.
The company tells us that the Redi-mix cement plant and gravel pit in the center of Hazelhurst is a "legal nonconforming use" of property, because it was once a long-time family business. Yet the former business was nothing like the current business! The former family business was clean, safe, quiet, and compatible with the town, the neighborhood, and the environment. It was well-respected and a positive civic contributor.
The current activities on the same property are dirty, dangerous and noisy to say the least. They are not compatible with the town, the neighborhood, or the environment - particularly air and water. I have heard no evidence that this business contributes anything positive to our community. This plant is just a business that benefits itself, at our expense.
In legal terms, the county and town's approval of this expansion constitutes illegal "spot zoning" and a clear violation of statutes and rules designed to protect the use, enjoyment and value of our community. The proposed expanded industrial activities are simply and fundamentally inconsistent with the surrounding land use and with our town's adopted comprehensive plan.
When this business interfered with my quiet enjoyment of my property, its noise waking me before 5 a.m., I called them. The company's operations manager assured me that current activities are "all grandfathered in; the new activities will be much quieter and safe for the environment."
As my grandfather would say, "That's hogwash." What goes on now in Hazelhurst is nothing like the local family business I grew up near.
Nevertheless, the town and county have consistently supported this industrial expansion, disregarding the overwhelming evidence in the record, including voluminous written materials submitted by residents, taxpayers, and experts.
We the people have resoundingly rejected sulfide mining in Oneida County Forests. Now it is time to also reject heavy industry in residential and recreational areas, including Hazelhurst, where we also have resources to protect.
Sincerely hoping for a more responsive and representative government,
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