Friday, January 23, 2015

Romancing the Stone

A week ago, Sam Pratt confirmed that A. Colarusso & Son had purchased Holcim's property in Hudson and Greenport: "Colarusso paid just $8.75 million to acquire 2o Holcim parcels." Today, the Register-Star catches up: "Cement company's land goes to Colarusso & Son." The article's lede seems a bit of an overstatement: "Local leaders are welcoming the transfer of most of the lands of the cement company Holcim U.S. to the Greenport sand-and-gravel company A. Colarusso & Son." 

The article quotes Common Council president Don Moore ("I hope it's good for their business, I hope it is good for the city."), Greenport town supervisor John Porreca ("I imagine it will be for increased production as far as taking the stone and moving it to the waterfront."), and First Ward alderman David Marston ("I'm pleased to see local ownership and operation."). Mayor William Hallenbeck declined to comment, as did a representative from A. Colarusso & Son.



  1. A guarded welcome, to be sure, but our good will may not even register. It may be a little story we tell ourselves which goes no further.

    Does anyone know who owns Colarusso Ventures LLC? It sure isn't the Colarusso family! The true owners could be anywhere, even Switzerland (oh my).

    As soon as a plan for a conveyor system is introduced to go from Becraft Mountain to the waterfront, our warm welcomes will be long forgotten if they're even noticed at all.

  2. Unheimlich I think you and I are the only people that know the conveyor system that is in all of the LWRP drawings and models will be a reality. I have watched the Rr tracks being repaired from the truck damage several times and believe it is only a matter of time (if it hasn't happened already) before the gravel trucks are not allowed to cross over the tracks anymore.
    We should be working on a plan that will limit the noise level and hours of operation of this conveyor system because if you thought the sound of an idling freight train was loud, get ready

  3. And guess who will be cheering when the trucks stop and the conveyor starts rolling.

  4. My guess is that for many years the trucks will drive down as they have been and dump on the east side of the tracks. The gravel will then be convayered over the tracks to the waterfront. The trucks will still come through Hudson.

  5. Windle, I believe you're right on the money as always. And yes, we have been alone in discussing this.

    There's a South Bay conveyor in our future, and why not if it's already planned and zoned. The thing is almost certainly a done deal already.

    As it is, the otherwise worthless waterfront plan (LWRP) gave us trucks in the city AND on the causeway.

    So before the folks at TSL get too excited by this victory (which could only have dawned on them after reading our comments), they should consider the likelihood that you're also correct about the future. We'll see years of trucks on the causeway AND city streets making aggregate deliveries to a small conveyor placed right where the 2011 Common Council zoned one to be.

    Perhaps this is a welcome thing for the owners of the Basilica, I don't know. Out of respect, I tried to learn the answer to that years ago, but I failed.

    Well, we'd all better wake up soon and do as you suggest: begin work on setting noise levels and hours of operation. But do you recall at the finish of the environmental impact statement for the LWRP in September 2011, these very issues you mention were discussed in detail with Chief Counsel for the state's Department of State, William Sharp, at a Special Meeting of the Common Council.

    Thank goodness that WGXC has preserved that discussion on audio:

    [I'll post some topical excerpts from a transcript below.]

  6. Windle, the following discussion between the Common Council and DOS attorney William Sharp is invaluable for understanding the challenges to wanting to limit the impact of an operating conveyor system.

    The dialogue took place on September 26, 2011.

    (You can match the audio to the transcript by moving the slide bar according to the time given.)

    Cheryl Roberts (CR): [1:01:50] "What about changes in volume?"

    William Sharp (WS): "From a zoning perspective or from a coastal consistency perspective?

    WS: [1:02:00] "From the zoning perspective, zoning recognizes that uses, even nonconforming uses, can lawfully have an intensification of use without somehow being considered to be a change in the zoning.

    "In other words, I'll just use a simple example rather then the port example. If someone has a nonconforming horse farm, and they double the number of horses from 10 to 20, the zoning would treat that as an intensification of the use. ...

    WS: [1:03:14] "However if there is a dramatic change of use it is possible that the zoning classification could change. Now getting something that dramatic is difficult. ...

    WS: [1:03:55] "If there is a dramatic change, however, it may well be that it no longer accords with the zoning if indeed it turns into some other kind of use different than that which is allowed. If it becomes a major [garbled] .... much like trucks on a road."

    WS: [1:05:04] "The question is, has the underlying use changed?

    WS: [1:05:30] "There is a list of actions which will trigger the need for a conditional use permit. ... The language that will snap in the need for a conditional use permit is, "no building shall be .... [1D].

    WS: [1:08:02] "If indeed they are lawful under the existing zoning, they would become a lawful nonconforming use. They would not be able to enlarge or expand under the City's zoning. The existing zoning that you have does not permit expansions of nonconforming uses. My guess is unless there is perhaps a variance granted by the Zoning Board of Appeals. ...

    WS: [1:08:26] "It would be at the point where something happens on the property, where the paving of the road - or the road needs to be regraded; if that's regraded, they're going to have to get a conditional use permit for the entire property.

    "If for some reason the culvert which is over South Bay is not able to bear the weight of the trucks going over it, it may well be that they would need to seek repairs to it, and that would trigger a need for a conditional use permit. ..."

    Alderman Chris Wagoner: [1:13:09] "So you're saying legally we couldn't control hours of operation?"

    CR: "Not currently" [Note: this conversation took place two months before the city's zoning was amended].

    Don Moore: [1:24:32] "... Is there a way, independent of this, to impose a regulation that would control hours of use regardless of a nonconforming zoning use."

    WS: [1:24:58] "Regulating hours of operation of business is tricky. If it's legislated rather than handed off to an administrative board that comes up with it on its own, it has made it through the courts satisfactorily. [There's] a case called Southland Corps. v. Janowsky that basically upheld the Town of Riverhead's imposition of an hours of operation zone on a 7-11 [store] ...

    WS: [1:26:34] "It's [the zoning code that is] able to specify the use, but it is not supposed to be able to regulate the internal operations of a business. How the two balance out is with the courts.

    WS: [1:27:47] "But there are certain controls that the City could enact which may be outside of the course of zoning that you may be able to lawfully enact separate and apart from whether the owner goes and seeks a conditional use permit or not. They'd have to be looked at on an individual basis and the City would have to decide which ones if any it wants to adopt."

  7. "There are certain controls the city could enact "
    In other words, there aren't any in place, the permits are in place to turn the trestle into a conveyor system. Is that correct? Anyone?

    1. Without thinking too deeply on the subject (thus alerting you to the possibility of unfounded speculation ahead!), I'd compare Sharp's "certain controls" to the long-promised "anti-truck laws" for the 1st and 2nd Wards, which is everything downhill and west of the 3rd Street state truck route.

      The Zoning Code says nothing about how these wards' roads may be used, thus an anti-truck ordinance would have to be enacted "separate and apart from" the unconditional zoning uses listed for those districts.

      The perennial promise to pass such a law is something we associate with election season, after which the issue safely fades away again.

    2. I hasten to add that I'd want to make it a condition of any such anti-truck law that the city first measure the width of the causeway road, as the city should have done after the Zoning Code was amended in 2011.

      The ever-destructive attorney Cheryl Roberts stated in [her] LWRP that the Planning Commission would oversee any modifications to the causeway, but as advisor to the Planning Commission she and its members knew that oversight would be impossible without having baseline measurements.

      Now more than three years later, the city has intentionally not measured the width of the causeway, while the road and the actual Zoning District have grown wider and wider on the way to becoming an illegally obtained two-way road.

      It's all documented and probative. Anyone refuting this is simply ignorant, not to mention something of a tool.

      This terminally creepy city has been breaking its own laws which were written to regulate any modifications to the causeway road. That's because the kinds of people who are used to obtaining things in underhanded ways prefer the idea of two-way traffic cutting into the wetlands.

      Unfortunately in a place like Hudson, a wink between aldermen and the mayor's attorney and our planning officials is a lot more powerful than any ordinance they'll create which they have no expectation of enforcing anyway.