LOWER MILFORD TOWNSHIP
The meeting room at Lower Milford Township filled as people arrived Nov. 1 to hear the result of nine years of zoning hearings by Geryville Materials for a quarry on 628 acres. Requested as accessory uses were to be a ready mix plant and a hot asphalt plant.
Three people spoke at a Lower Milford Township Zoning Hearing Board meeting Sept. 12 concerning the Geryville Materials special exception application to locate a quarry on West Mill Road, Lower Milford Township. The quarry plans to use 628.483 acres.
Stephen B. Harris, an attorney from Harris and Harris, Warrington, representing Geryville Materials, repeated many of the arguments in favor of the quarry at the Sept. 12 meeting.
A quarry is permitted as a special exception in the agriculture-rural zoning area, he said. Other uses to be combined with the quarry are accessory uses and include a concrete plant and asphalt plant. He said those uses are included by case law in the quarry application.
By zoning quarries belong in an industrial zone which means hauling stone to the industrial site with more truck traffic.
Harris said the zoning board should only consider the request by set standards and criteria and the application had to prove the standards were met. No building may be within 150 feet of a highway.
Harris also said the Commonwealth Court reviewed the revisions made to the plan. Geryville Materials has to demonstrate operations will not be harmful to the health, safety or welfare of residents.
He said supervisors had made a legislative decision which allowed a special exception use consistent with agriculture and residential use. Residents have to prove there is a threat to their health, safety or welfare.
Harm caused by truck traffic is insufficient reason for zoning board denial. Harris said they may have sympathy for the residents but it is not a reason for denial.
The non-coal act of 1984 supersedes any previous local zoning ordinances. Geryville applied after 1984. Quarries are highly regulated as far as ground and surface water is concerned.
Harris said the planning commission was attempting to regulate how the quarry would operate considering infiltration and wetlands. Harris said it is the Department of Environmental Protection which regulates adverse impacts. Air quality regulations are pre-empted by the state and must be followed.
Harris said the testimony heard meant that the same people were asked to testify over and over. He said testimony should have ended in 2010.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has the final say about shoulders, wider lanes and guide rails because it is a state highway. The quarry would need a highway occupancy permit.
Mark Cappuccio, solicitor for the township, said witnesses never described how operations should be done.
He said the commonwealth said if the special exception is given, strict standards and criteria will have to be met. They did not say anything about flood plains and woodlands. He said the number of water courses on the property had been underreported.
Impacts will affect steep slopes and soft dropoffs. Trucks have difficulty now and leave their lanes. The bridge in Limeport was closed when traffic was counted affecting that count. Truck traffic will increase by 10. Twelve-foot lanes are customary on Kings Highway. Trucks will be using it weighing 70,000 to 80,000 pounds carrying stone.
“How can they not cross a lane or go off the side of the road?” Cappuccio asked. Guide rails would help keep trucks on the road but 75 percent of accidents on Kings Highway are from cars that go off the road. It would place the burden on the township to soften curves. Agriculture vehicles have no room to pull off the road when trucks want to pass.
“The applicant says don’t worry, don’t worry,” Cappuccio said.
There will be 212,000 gallons of water per day to infiltrate but there is bedrock under the soil. It should have been tested how fast infiltration would occur.
The water has to go somewhere. “Turn your hose on at home and leave it run, go to lunch, what do you think will happen?” Cappuccio asked. “You do not have to give them a free pass.”
Wetlands are already wetlands. A lot of them will be lost. A mitigation plan was presented so they know there will be an impact. The water is warm and will affect turtles, fish, insects and bugs. They say they will have a modernized system but that was just presupposed.
There are volatile compounds, silicate dust – even with filters, it cannot be cleaned completely and effects may cause emphysema, asthma and chronic bronchitis.
This information came from a toxicologist in previous testimony.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 2017 said people have a right to clean, pure water and clean air. They are common ownership by all the people.
There were statements made by previous witnesses one of whom wanted to deregulate industry. “We are asking for denial,” one witness said.
John Rice, attorney for the Lower Milford Residents Association, said the zoning decision will have far-reaching impacts. He said he asked about natural resources. Geryville has had time to make their case and still hasn’t.
The 2009 zoning ordinance was completed two weeks before the quarry plan was brought.
At the Sept. 12 meeting, Rice said, “The plan we have today is different from the original. They want 628.483 acres.” Farmland preservation is important now. Lower Milford has the fourth most acres preserved in Lehigh County. It is between two streams in an agricultural preserved area. That is a sufficient threat. Location is important.
“There are thousands of acres of active farmland with bad roads, poor shoulders and an impact on water,” Rice said. “It could have gone somewhere else where there is no preserved land. We are not talking about one or two farms. They want 628.483 acres.”
Rice said, “Like residential development it will drive farmers away. There is a Century Farm. The owner looks forward to two centuries. Farming is a main source of income. In Bucks County, farmers just gave up.”
“The threat to groundwater is a direct threat to health, safety and welfare,” Rice said.
“You have the ability and enough testimony to deny the application,” Rice said.
The meeting Nov. 1 began 15 minutes late due to the absence of Rice, attorney for the Lower Milford Residents Association. When he was contacted by phone he said they should go ahead because it would take a while for him to get there due to traffic.
Previously the four-member board had held executive sessions to discuss the information.
At the Nov. 1 meeting, Sharon Quigley, board member, said the application was denied. After clapping and cheers by the audience, the meeting was over.