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Trial set on Copar zoning appeals

WARWICK — Associate Justice Brian Stern agreed Tuesday to take over two notice of violation appeals hearings involving Copar Quarries of Westerly and Westerly Granite Co. Inc.

Lawyers for the town and the two companies met in the morning with Stern in his chambers at Kent County Superior Court. After the brief conference, Richard Boren, the lawyer representing the town, confirmed that Stern had agreed to take the case. A trial is scheduled to begin Feb. 24.

According to Boren, the lawyers for Copar and Westerly Granite agreed to dismiss the Zoning Board of Review as a named party in a $10 million civil rights lawsuit that is pending against the town. The companies claim that the town has conspired against them to try to put them out of business. They also claim other constitutional rights violations. The Town Council, zoning solicitor Jack Payne Jr., former town solicitor and now Town Manager Michelle Buck and other unnamed town employees remain as defendants in the lawsuit.

Lawyers were asked to complete depositions needed for the trial by the end of January.

The lawyers also agreed Tuesday that the appeals of any future notices of violation issued to the two companies will be heard and ruled on by the judge.

The companies assert that the Zoning Board of Review was biased and unable to conduct a fair hearing. They filed a motion last week asking Stern to take over the appeals. Stern then issued a temporary restraining order, stopping the zoning board from proceeding and asked the Town Council whether it wanted him to take over the appeals hearings. The council voted to ask Stern to take over the appeals.

About 10 Westerly and Charlestown residents were present Tuesday, hoping that the actual appeals hearing would begin. Some of the neighbors have complained for more than two years, saying Copar is causing stone dust to drift into their yards, coating their property and putting their health at risk. The neighbors also complain of problems caused by explosive blasts at the quarry and excessive noise.

The notices of violation cite the companies for failing to use water to control stone dust, willfully violating town zoning rules, causing excessive noise, operating outside of the work area set out in the project zoning certificate and submitting faulty maps to the town prior to issuance of the zoning certificate. The companies have denied all of the claims.

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