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New Ringgold mining firm appeals variance denial

Published February 02. 2010 05:00PM

A ruling made by the Schuylkill County Zoning Hearing Board denying a New Ringgold Coal Company permission to strip mine on a mountain in Palo Alto, near Pottsville, is being appealed in the Schuylkill County court because the zoning board ruled the area can be utilized for low density residential development.

E.O.J. Inc., Joseph Zaprazny, president, argued the board's ruling was wrong and is asking the court to reverse the decision claiming the abandoned strip mining pits located in the area where they wish to mine cannot be utilized for low density residential development. The company also denies the claim that the required variance sought from the county zoning ordinance is detrimental to the public welfare. The company claims by re-mining and reclamation activities it will improve the essential character of the neighborhood.

The mining company further states in its appeal that the associated activity will allow the land owner to clean up his property, eliminate abandoned strip mine pits and return the property to the use under the Conservative Residential (CR) District it is now zoned.

The mining company states in its appeal that the board committed a "manifest abuse of discretion and clear error of law" in finding that the premises can be utilized for low density residential development. It argues that there is no way possible that abandoned strip mining pits will support construction of any type of buildings

The company also claims they were blocked by the county commissioners from receiving a decision by all three members of the zoning board. It is pointed out in the appeal that the decision was rendered by only two members, Kim Eckert and George Chickersky, and that the third member of the board, William Zimmerman, who also was the chairman of the zone board, was prevented from voting by the commissioners.

The zoning board held two long hearings on the appeal in December and there were objections voiced by a large number of residents of Palo Alto who opposed granting of the mining rights. The board was scheduled to make its decision at its January meeting, however, Zimmerman's term on the board expired Dec. 31 and the county commissioners, at a meeting the last week of December, did not reappoint Zimmerman to the zoning board and he was not able to vote at the January meeting. The two remaining board members cast a "no" vote at the January meeting denying the mining application.

The mining company owns three tracts of land in Palo Alto, 114.53 acres, zoned R-3 (Multi-Family Residential) and CR; 87.17 acres zoned CR and 16.2 acres zoned CR.

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