Township appeals quarry decision
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.
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.
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.