July 20, 2011 —
The supervisors of Lackawaxen Township approved the proposed expansion of the Holbert Brothers Bluestone Quarry at a meeting on July 20, but before doing so, township solicitor Tony Waldron read a list of 10 conditions that he recommended by attached to the approval, and the supervisors agreed to the conditions.
Chief among them is one that mandates that only one acre of the expanded quarry can be worked at a time, and a new acre can’t be started until the previous acre has been reclaimed.
The quarry is situated very close to the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational and most people familiar with the situation consider it to be located within the river corridor. As such, land uses are supposed to comply with the land use guidelines in the River Management Plan (RMP).
A 40 acre expansion would not be in compliance with the guidelines. But Sean McGuinness, the superintendent of the National Park Service (NPS), initially thought the one-acre rule would mean that the operation is in compliance. But after reading through the conditions and other documents related to the permit process, McGuinness said he had a number of serious concerns.
One of the conditions allows the Holbert brothers to remove the “overburden” from the entire 40 acres all at the same time. The overburden is usually defined as everything that exists above the rock which is to be quarried, such as the soil, trees and other vegetation. Additionally, the conditions allow for each acre of quarry to be “bonded” rather than “reclaimed,” which could result in the entire 40 acres being cleared.
On a related matter, Wayne Holbert in the past has asserted that because the quarry can’t be seen from the river it is not in the river corridor. In documents prepared by Waldron, it was written that the quarry is indeed located within the corridor district, but not subject to RMP because it was in operation before the plan was in place.
During a general discussion of the matter on the evening of the vote, supervisor Rich Krochta said the supervisors had considered many factors in the decision.
Waldron said that everyone agreed that if the application had been for a new quarry it would not have been approved. But, he said, “The family has been there since the 1700s, and the quarry has been more or less in operation for over 100 years, and that’s a factor here, and just about everyone that is involved, including the Park Service, came in afterwards.”
He added, “There are state regulations that say you should not unreasonably restrict the development of mineral resources and that’s right in the municipality’s planning code.”
At another point, Waldron explained why NPS and the Upper Delaware Council were not named as interested parties and were therefore denied permission to speak at a public hearing on the matter in June. He said the supervisors decided that the only interested parties would be adjacent or nearby landowners, and when they asked for advice about whether the two organizations should be included, he responded that it was a matter that could go either way. The supervisors then voted that they should not be granted party status.
McGuinness said he would look into an appeal of this decision, because both organizations have obligations regarding the entire river corridor and are therefore affected by the proposed quarrying. He said he would discussing the situation with NPS legal counsel.
On another matter at the meeting more than one commenter said that while the current permits allow quarrying on 10 acres, it is actually happening on 18 acres. McGuinness says the RMP allows for only four acres to be open for mining at a time. The supervisors and the zoning officer said they would investigate the matter of size of the operation.
Some neighbors have threatened to bring legal action, and wanted the expansion application to be denied outright. Ron Parker, who owns a home in the St. Vincent’s Pointe neighborhood, issued a statement saying, “The supervisors failed to protect the interests of Lackawaxen citizens, the environment and the Delaware River. Their decision will be appealed and they will loose the lawsuit causing an unnecessary significant cost to the local residents.”