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November 22, 2014
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Holbert defends bluestone quarry, lawyer ups the ante


“None of my detractors have ever been harmed in any way by me or my business; two of my biggest detractors are trying to sell their over-priced riverfront homes.” That was from Wayne Holbert who spoke at a meeting of the Upper Delaware Council (UDC) on August 4, about the Holbert Bluestone Quarry in Lackawaxen, PA.

The Lackawaxen Township supervisors voted on July 20 to give Holbert a permit to expand from some 10 acres (although neighbors claim it is actually about 18) to an additional 40. The UDC and the National Park Service have objected to the development because the quarry is in the river corridor and the River Management Plan (RMP) dictates that operations such as the quarry should not use more than four acres of land at any given time.

Holbert said that his operation must be larger than four acres because otherwise “there’s no way you could have enough room to turn around.” He added, “It’s the way it’s going to be, it’s the way it is now.” The Lackawaxen supervisors have claimed that the quarry is not subject to the RMP because it existed before the plan was adopted in the 1980s.

In a reference to some neighbors who oppose the expansion, Hobert said to the board, “You are not shills for big government or extreme tree-huggers.”

On the other side of the issue, Ron Parker, who owns a home in the St. Vincent’s Pointe neighborhood adjacent to the quarry and has said he will bring a lawsuit against the township because of the expansion permit, also addressed the board and commented on a letter sent to the UDC by Holbert’s lawyer, Richard P. Mislitsky.

The Lackawaxen supervisors had denied a NPS request to speak at a hearing on the permit application. Mislitsky wrote that federal law prohibits NPS from participating in “matters like this,” and the UDC was also denied standing. Parker said, if that was so, then township solicitor Tony Waldron would not have recommended that both organizations be included as parties to the proceedings, and in an earlier application regarding the same expansion in 2008, both organizations were, in fact, included in the proceedings.

Mislitsky’s letter to the UDC also said, “Please do not make your decision because someone claims it is clearly ‘not allowed.’ Make your decision on what the RMP is intended to do—protect the river. Make those people prove to you how this application will harm the river.”

But perhaps the most attention-getting item in Mislitsky’s letter was the final, which said: “One more thing and I am truly reluctant to say this. If this matter must go to court, I will be forced to challenge the entire corridor in Lackawaxen Township. While I would never be so presumptuous as to predict what an appellate court will do, given existing law from the Commonwealth Court, in my opinion, it is more probable than not that the corridor will be removed from Lackawaxen Township due to procedural deficiencies in the adoption and administration of the overlay district.”

The UDC board ultimately approved a motion to retain legal counsel for possible litigation.