Mill 1

Dimensional Mills, a manufacturer of pallets, skids and stakes, is at 337 Main St. in Hudson Falls. One neighbor is extremely concerned with the noise from the mill, which sits between a residential zone and a commercial zone.

HUDSON FALLS — The Zoning Board of Appeals lightened up its regulations of a local sawmill Monday night, following public comments both in support of and against how the business operates.

Ultimately, two privately conducted sound tests, ordered after a village resident complained multiple times about noise, supported the mill’s request for laxer regulations.

Dimensional Mills at 337 Main St. has owned the sawmill since 2011, although it has been in operation since 1999. The company manufactures wooden pallets in a residential zone; the village granted the mill a variance in 1999 to allow it to operate.

Owner Daniel Ellsworth came before the Zoning Board to seek modifications to the variance.

He asked that the village allow his business to operate with the overhead doors open and allow the installation of backup warning devices on equipment.

Currently, Ellsworth is in violation of the Occupational Safety and Health Act by not having backup warning noises on equipment, he said.

Ellsworth also asked to operate equipment outside between 7 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. His 1999 variance required him to operate with the doors closed and never outside.

Finally, he asked some of the variance conditions be deleted, because Dimensional Mills is already regulated by the state Department of Environmental Conservation and Occupational Safety and Health Administration Act for things like sawdust collection.

The requested changes spurred an approximately hourlong public hearing of neighbors both for and against.

Brian Burnett, of 5 LaCrosse St., has been against the mill for some time. He has lived at that address for 24 years, before a mill was ever in the neighborhood.

Burnett attends nearly every Village Board meeting, reading from a meticulously kept log of dates and times when he believes Dimensional Mills violated their variance. He has filed two police reports, too.

He has observed, he said, times when the mill is operating with the doors open, times when sawdust and diesel fumes overpower the outdoors and times when his decibel meter shows sound levels in his home at high levels.

Once a month, the board collects his logs, and Burnett leaves.

Burnett appeared Monday night before the Zoning Board with a tote bag full of complaints he has filed since 2017, reading off some of his concerns. He said the mill has affected his property value, which declined in 2017 and 2018. He’s also concerned about his family’s health from breathing in the dust and fumes.

“I can’t believe we’re even here doing this,” he told the Zoning Board. “I’m just too mad to remember everything.”

He handed them some of his complaints and sat down.

Another resident came before the board concerned about noise, but after a quick conversation with Ellsworth during the meeting about putting up a fence on the back side of the mill’s property, he appeared to be satisfied.

Three neighbors came to speak in support of Dimensional Mills’ request, and said they’d never had issues with sound or dust.

Local dentist John Lawrence, whose office is nearby, said he has not witnessed any noise.

John Holland, owner of an office complex at 10 LaCrosse St. said Ellsworth has been a “kind and generous” neighbor, and his tenants have never had noise complaints.

Tim Taylor, resident of 335 Main St., said the mill has become quieter over the years, and he didn’t see any reason why Ellsworth shouldn’t be granted the changes to his variance.

Following the public comments, Ellsworth’s lawyer, Ed Fitzgerald, addressed Burnett’s opposition.

The village ordered Ellsworth to conduct a sound study in response to Burnett’s complaints. Ellsworth hired LaBella Associates, and in July 2018, a comprehensive noise test showed the mill was not violating its variance for noise levels.

Ellsworth paid for a second test in October 2018 so two village trustees could witness it. He ran all of his equipment with the doors open to get the worst-case scenario, and still, he did not violate his noise level requirements.

The study backfired on Burnett, instead supporting Ellsworth’s request to operate some machinery outdoors.

“Every one of our board members have tried to verify Mr. Burnett’s complaints,” said Deputy Mayor Bob Cook.

Burnett held firm on his concerns.

Exasperated, Village Attorney William Nikas said, “What is it that Mr. Burnett is hearing?”

“The Village Board went well beyond the call of duty,” Nikas continued. “It’s just not there. There’s no violation.”

The Zoning Board appeared hesitant to pass the variance changes, however.

Board Member Mike Willig said he’d like to see a little compromise, and suggested Ellsworth install sound dampening at his mill. Ellsworth said he has been compromising since day one.

When Chairman Bob Durkee asked if anyone would make a motion to pass the variance changes, there was a 30-second pause. Lou Cantiello finally made the motion and Jennifer Langlois seconded it.

The change passed unanimously with Bridget Davis absent.

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Reporter Gwendolyn Craig can be reached at (518) 742-3238 or gcraig@poststar.com. Follow her on Twitter @gwendolynnn1.


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