Town­ship ap­peals quarry de­ci­sion

The Boyertown Area Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Evan Brandt ebrandt@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @PottstownNews on Twit­ter

NEW HANOVER » With a unan­i­mous vote Mon­day, Sept. 25, the town­ship su­per­vi­sors opened an­other chap­ter in the decade-long le­gal saga of its fight with the com­pany that wants to es­tab­lish a quarry in the mid­dle of town.

This time, the town­ship is ap­peal­ing a de­ci­sion by its own zon­ing hear­ing board which, ear­lier this month, ap­proved the ex­pan­sion of the Gi­bral­tar Rock Quarry onto prop­erty that is ad­ja­cent to a site which con­tam­i­nated ground­wa­ter in the area.

In its de­ci­sion — made after 20 pub­lic hear­ings from April 2015 to Au­gust 2017 — the zon­ing board granted the special ex­cep­tion sought by the quarry com­pany, but also at­tached 16 dif­fer­ent con­di­tions with which the com­pany must com­ply.

The last time the zon­ing board at­tached con­di­tions to a de­ci­sion — in re­la­tion to the ap­proval of the orig­i­nal quarry pro­posal known as GR-1 — Gi­bral­tar Rock chal­lenged those con­di­tions in court.

The same thing may hap­pen again said Robert Brant, the special coun­sel hired by the town­ship to deal with all quarry le­gal mat­ters.

But if the town­ship waits to see if Gi­bral­tar Rock ap­peals, its abil­ity to in­ter­vene would be lim­ited to only those things to which the quarry com­pany had ob­jected, he ex­plained.

Ap­peal­ing in its own right al­lows the su­per­vi­sors to choose from a broader set of le­gal is­sues in its chal­lenge.

“I think there is enough ev­i­dence in the tes­ti­mony to form the grounds of an ap­peal,” said Brant who, along with an at­tor­ney from the Ban the Quarry/ Par­adise Watch­dogs group, sat through all 20 hear­ings, cross ex­am­ined quarry wit­nesses and of­fered wit­nesses of their own.

With the 30-day clock tick­ing be­fore the win­dow al­low­ing ap­peals closes, Brant said the su­per­vi­sors would have to make a de­ci­sion Mon­day night, or hold a special meet­ing to make one if they wanted an ap­peal in their own right.

He said he does not know if Ban the Quarry will file an ap­peal of its own and Celeste Bish, the group’s pres­i­dent, who was at Mon­day’s meet­ing and asked sev­eral ques­tions, did not of­fer an im­me­di­ate an­swer.

Wil­liam “Ross” Snook, the head of the town­ship’s En­vi­ron­men­tal Ad­vi­sory Coun­cil, is­sued a re­port to the su­per­vi­sors con­tend­ing some of the “facts” out­lined in the zon­ing board de­ci­sion, in par­tic­u­lar the idea that the pit of chem­i­cals dis­cov­ered by a state investigation on the ad­ja­cent former Good’s Oil site in July is the sole source of con­tam­i­na­tion, which was the fo­cus of much of the hear­ings.

What the zon­ing hear­ing board ap­proved is a third ex­pan­sion of the orig­i­nal quarry, north of Hoff­mansville Road and ad­ja­cent to the sec­ond ex­pan­sion on one side, and to the former Good’s Oil prop­erty on the other.

It is lo­cated on 82 acres Gi­bral­tar pur­chased for $800,000 in Novem­ber, 2014 from a trust owned by the Good fam­ily.

The state de­ter­mined in 2013 that the prop­erty, now known as the Hoff VC site, is the source of volatile or­ganic com­pound chem­i­cal con­tam­i­na­tion of a num­ber of res­i­den­tial wells which ul­ti­mately re­quired the in­stal­la­tion of a pub­lic wa­ter sys­tem at the cost of $2 mil­lion.

Snook said an of­fi­cial with the Penn­syl­va­nia De­part­ment of Pro­tec­tion told him re­cently, “the pit was only the con­tain­ment of any sig­nif­i­cance found to date” and that the pit’s re­moval rep­re­sented “only one mil­lionth of a per­cent” of the amount of con­tam­i­na­tion po­ten­tially on the site after 50 years of oil and truck wash­ing op­er­a­tions.

Much of the tes­ti­mony be­fore the zon­ing board fo­cused on whether the quarry op­er­a­tion at the ex­pan­sion site, which would ul­ti­mately re­quire the pump­ing of hun­dreds of thou­sands of gal­lons of ground wa­ter, would draw the ground­wa­ter pol­lu­tion into the open and pose a pub­lic health risk.

Per­haps pre­dictably, the ex­perts hired by the town­ship and Ban the Quarry, thought the chances of this dan­ger oc­cur­ring were much higher than the ex­pert hired by Gi­bral­tar Rock.

DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA FILE PHOTO

One of many slides used in zon­ing hear­ing tes­ti­mony about the po­ten­tial for ground­wa­ter pol­lu­tion to be made worse by a pro­posed Gi­bral­tar Rock quarry ex­pan­sion.

DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA FILE PHOTO

A stop work or­der pre­vented a 2009 at­tempt by Gi­bral­tar Rock to be­gin pre­par­ing the orig­i­nal 61-acre site off Route 73 for quarry op­er­a­tions.

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