Rhode Island town temporary halt on new quarry operations

Westerley, Town Council, Rhode Island, has voted for a 180-day moratorium aimed at stopping new quarry operations in the town, the Westerly Sun reports.

The council’s vote followed a public hearing Monday where five residents of Westerly and Charlestown, mostly neighbors of the former Copar Quarries of Westerly site in Bradford, urged the council to approve the moratorium.

The moratorium comes as a committee appointed by the council continues to work on an extraction ordinance, which would regulate the industry. The proposed ordinance and the moratorium were both prompted by Copar and its successor, Armeta Sand and Stone.

The two companies were cited by the town, the state, and federal authorities for failing to abide by various laws and regulations. The neighbors of the Bradford property, which is owned by the Comolli family’s Westerly Granite Co, filed numerous complaints and lawsuits claiming stone dust drifted from the quarry into their yards, creating a health hazard. They also complained of problems caused by blasting at the site, including cracked foundations and compromised water systems.

The town has spent more than $240,000 in legal fees connected to the Comolli’s property. Development of the extraction ordinance could be challenging.

Town Attorney Matthew Oliverio, speaking during the public hearing, said it is not clear the town has the legal authority to establish an ordinance regulating quarry operators unless it first succeeds in lobbying the state General Assembly to approve special enabling legislation granting the town authority to regulate the industry.

He said a few other municipalities succeeded in receiving similar enabling legislation . There are believed to be about five defunct quarry sites in town. The moratorium is intended to prevent the owners of those properties from suddenly reviving quarry operations. dfaulkner@thewesterlysun.com

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