By PHIL NOBILE
The saga of a controversial quarry in West Harrison took another turn last week as Harrison officials debated—often with Harrison residents—a zoning change for the quarry to develop new businesses on the property.
At the July 17 Town Council meeting, members of the all-Republican board measured the merits of a proposal by Lake Street Quarry president Lawrence Barrego to re-zone his quarry from R-1, or one-family residential, to NB, or neighborhood business.
Barrego hopes to transform the quarry, which has been a source of controversy and litigation for years, into a new grocery store, bank and offices, leading to his zoning request before the council.
The matter was adjourned until next month’s Town Council meeting, so whether or not it will be denied outright or passed on to the Planning Board remains to be seen. Councilmembers gave no indication if they were supportive of the zoning change, but adjourned the matter in order to discuss legalities relating to the development proposal in executive session, according to Councilman Stephen Malfitano. The decision to adjourn didn’t stop some residents from voicing their concerns about the zoning request to the council.
“I think there has been a complete un-justice served on us for the past 15 years,” Glenn Daher, a West Harrison resident and neighbor of the quarry, said. “Logic would [suggest] this is not a productive proposal that should not even make it to the Planning Board.”
Some outspoken critics wondered if hearing a proposal for a zoning change and new businesses was appropriate considering the controversy and upcoming court date surrounding the quarry.
“This is not the right time to do this,” Jimmi Pritchard, Harrison Democratic Chairwoman, said. “It’s untimely, and I think we need to finish what is already in the works before we do anything else.”
Re-zoning is not the only issue revolving around the quarry at the moment. It was recently issued a new stop work order and charged with 37 town code violations. It has been shut down indefinitely, and Barrego will appear in Harrison Town Court on Sept. 7 for a trial on the violations.
Daniel Ciarcia, the architect for what is being proposed for the quarry site, defended his proposal before the Town Council amidst scrutiny from town residents. Barrego and his attorney, Michael Sirignano, called the plan a “global resolution” to the problems his business has caused over the years, which range from quality of life complaints from neighbors to lack of proper permits to operate from the town.
“Our understanding is this can be a means of redeveloping a property, providing something different and eliminate the quarry,” Ciarcia said. “Clearly, the town no longer wants to see the activity continue there any further.”
Despite the specificity of the plans by Ciarcia, council members expressed confusion at submitting a proposed business plan for the property at the same time as a re-zoning request.
Councilman Joseph Canella called the process “backwards.” He said, normally, a re-zoning request is first made, then a development proposal is brought up. Canella said what needed to be considered was the potential new use of the property, not Barrego’s plan specifically.
“Mr. Barrego seems to have merged the two into something that creates confusion and is not necessarily productive,” Canella said. “We need to think about what is an appropriate use of this site and discard the concept of what [Barrego] may have in mind for his property.”
The next Town Council meeting is scheduled for Aug. 7.