JOHNSTOWN - A gravel pit first proposed along Steele Avenue Extension more than 10 years ago has a chance of coming to fruition, but neighbors say it will impact wildlife and change the character of the neighborhood.
Town officials said Frank Fernandez, who owns the property, applied in April for a special permit to create a gravel pit on property he owns.
The Planning Board provided him and his engineer a list of what information will be needed on the site plan, Code Enforcement Officer Ryan Fagan said. The gravel pit also would need approval from the state Department of Environmental Conservation and, after a public hearing, approval from the town.
Fernandez previously approached the town about building a gravel pit in 2001, but a group called the Neighborhood Preservation Alliance opposed it, and the town approved a one-year mining moratorium, town Supervisor Nancy MacVean said. The moratorium was renewed every year, but it expired this year.
The proposed gravel pit would be in an agricultural use zone under the town's new zoning map, which took effect last year. Sand and gravel banks are now considered "acceptable land use," MacVean said.
Fernandez declined to comment on the proposal.
Residents have said the proposed gravel pit will affect what they say is a residential area.
"They're concerned about the truck traffic, noise and dust," MacVean said. "They have a nice, quiet area up there. They're worried about their rural, residential area."
The neighborhood also eventually will be home to the Berkshire Fire Department, which will build a new firehouse on the site of the Fireside restaurant.
The proposed gravel pit's property line is 20 feet from the Department of Environmental Conservation's Hale Creek Field Station. Building Supervisor Tim Martin said he's worried about the effects the gravel pit would have with the state's operations. He said he's concerned about a potential impact to creeks and trails that border the property, which would be subject to dust, noise and traffic.
"It's primarily a residential neighborhood. We'll most likely be affected by the noise and the dust created by the gravel pit," added Robert Bordieri, a maintenance assistant with the Division of Fish, Wildlife & Marine Resources at the DEC station. "The border of our property runs through a wooded area. And the wildlife in that wooded area would be affected by any kind of mine work. It would be a shame to devastate that property like that. There are plenty of people who don't want to see this happen."
Martin said a petition against the gravel pit has more than 70 signatures. But the woman circulating the petition could not be reached for comment.
MacVean said if the plan advances to a public hearing, she expects it would be well attended.
"The guy has the right to use his land in that way, because it's in the right zone," she said. "[But] I'm sure there will be a lot of people there voicing against it."