Foster residents angered as gravel operations allowed to continue

Foster residents angered as gravel operations allowed to continue

FOSTER – Residents in attendance at last Thursday’s Town Council meeting were angered by a consent agreement entered into between the town and Brian St. Croix, allowing him to continue stone crushing and removal operations on his property at 9 Mount Hygeia Road.

Rhode Island Supreme Court Justice Maureen Keough advised the town that St. Croix was within his rights to continue a gravel operation at his property under the Right to Farm Act, and that his claimed plan to create a horse farm was “valid and permissible.”

Town Council President Denise DeFranco said the town was at a standstill, and made the best decision under the circumstances.

“If it went on further, if we didn’t make a mutual agreement, Mr. St. Croix was going to be able to do whatever he wanted,” she said.

Though he originally proposed a gravel pit, St. Croix said he still wants to remove 850,000 cubic yards of ground stone from his property to create a horse farm with hay and grazing fields.

Foster residents repeatedly spoke against St. Croix, calling claims of a horse farm “a farce.”

“We all know it’s not going to be a horse farm,” said abutter Dan Davey, of 3 Mount Hygeia Road.

Another neighbor, Sally Freestone, of 48 Mount Hygeia Road, said she was appalled to find out that St. Croix will get away with his operation.

“It’s not going to be lovely hayfields,” she said.

“Let it be known that I stand up and speak for the will of the people,” she said. “We elected you, Town Council. You have the power to halt St. Croix’s destructive actions.”

Town Solicitor Mark Tourgee said that St. Croix met the burden of proof that he is creating a horse farm, and the consent agreement would grant the town oversight on the operations.

Council member Gordon Rogers read the terms of the consent order from the court transcripts.

St. Croix must only operate on 10 acres of property at a time, completing the building of hayfields or grazing fields before moving on to the next plot, Rogers read.

Additionally, trucks removing gravel from the property may only operate between Monday and Friday, he continued. St. Croix will be allowed to continue stone-crushing operations, but must stay within certain decibel levels, and his work must still be completed within his two-year timeframe.

In a claimed show of faith, St. Croix also agreed that by six months after the two-year deadline, his planned stables will be occupied to at least one-third capacity, or at least five horses.

Part of the agreement includes St. Croix forfeiting his right to an appeal, as well.

Judge Keough warned that she will make note in the case file that she will handle any future proceedings on the property, warning St. Croix of the implications non-compliance with the agreement could bring.

“I’m not a fan of semantics. I don’t like when people get cute, call something one thing and do whatever they want, it’s one of my pet peeves,” Keough said. If she learns St. Croix is in violation of the order, she will make sure he meets “very serious sanctions by me.”

Ending her judgment, she told St. Croix that it was incumbent on him to not only be a good citizen, but also a good neighbor.

Attorney Dylan Conley, representing abutters Joe Nadinger and Richard and Catherine Sparks, said the agreement is “identical” to the plan St. Croix submitted years ago to operate a mining operation.

“This is in no way different than what was required before,” Conley said. None of the claims against the town were removed, and neighbors still plan to sue the town for failure to enforce the laws.

The Sparks and Nadinger case claims that after a cease and desist order was filed against St. Croix for continued operations after a Zoning Board denial, the town failed to protect its citizens by refusing to enforce its laws.

“Quite simply, the town enforcing its own law would be a great starting point, but my client is seeking monetary damages as well,” said Conley.

Tourgee, answering comments for the public following the transcript reading, said that though St. Croix signed the order, he still had the right to sell the property at any point.