October 9, 2008

Ligonier Township Homeowners Mixed on 2 Mine Reclamation Projects

By AJ Panian

Ligonier Township supervisors heard mixed views Tuesday from about a dozen homeowners concerning two proposed abandoned mine reclamation projects on two properties.

Ligonier-based Coal Loaders Inc. is seeking conditional use permits from the township to extract remaining coal from two sites and reclaim much of the land at both sites to their pre-mined state as part of a government-financed construction program.

The first proposal involves a 40-acre plot owned by Seward Prosser Mellon known as Mellon Tract #2 along Myers School Road that would allow for completion of what would be the second of a three- phase mining and reclamation project. The company eventually plans to mine and reclaim a third plot known as Mellon Tract #1, according to Coal Loaders general manager Don Lupyan.

The second proposal involves a roughly 9-acre tract on property owned by the Ligonier Camp & Conference Center near Wilpen Road that would allow for completion of the first of a three-phase mining and reclamation project on additional lands owned by the center in the surrounding area, Lupyan said.

Public comment at yesterday's informational hearing dealt primarily with two Coal Loaders requests made to the township.

The company wants the township to waive an ordinance requiring it to stay 200 feet from any bordering property line and allow for reclamation work to occur up to one foot away from such borders. The company also wants to be able to perform reclamation work at the sites from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays in addition to its previously-proposed work schedule of 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

Several nearby residents have endorsed the company's requests to waive distance requirements based on the proposed reclamation work, Lupyan said.

Latrobe resident Julia Fedor, whose late mother, Ann Moyher, owned a home along Wilpen Road, was hesitant to offer such approval.

"I don't know if this project is going to affect the sale of my mother's property or not," Fedor said.

Tom Costello of nearby Mallard Lane expressed concern for residents over the state of a bridge spanning Hannas Run planned for use as part of an access road by the company's 24-ton triaxle trucks. Coal Loaders plans to shore up the bridge for use by the company and other motorists, Lupyan said.

Darlington resident Rose Stepnick asked supervisors to think hard about allowing the company to work on Saturdays.

"That could set a precedent that could eventually affect other township residents," Stepnick said.

Patrick Myers, executive director of Ligonier Camp and Conference Center, said the reclamation work planned by the company would help reduce the amount of highwalls, sinkholes and acid mine drainage in the area.

The board will review the proposals and vote on whether to award the conditional use permits at 7 p.m. Nov. 12.

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