First Time Here? Read This. . .
Since 2001, the Silvi Group, a Bucks County concrete company has been trying to obtain permits to build a quarry, asphalt plant, and concrete plant in New Hanover Township on 240 acres near the New Hanover Elementary School.
A facility of this size poses unique threats to air and water as well as a tremendous increase in local truck traffic on Swamp Pike, Rts. 63 and 73 throughout the Gilberstville area.
Since 2001, the New Hanover Board of Supervisors through their Zoning Hearing Board, with the community efforts of the Paradise Watchdogs, has battled with Gibraltar Rock, Inc. to require the company to adhere to all township ordinances and state laws, as required by their Non-Coal Mining Permit. As of 2018, Gibraltar Rock is awaiting the renewal of their mining permit, and the township will be reviewing the final land development plan for the quarry.
Below is a detailed explanation of what has happened since 2001.
Following is a detailed summary of four Gibraltar Rock applications to the New Hanover Zoning Hearing Board, requesting a special exception to quarry on their heavy-industrial zoned land. Included is a short summary of the “settlement” attempted by Gibraltar Rock in 2009 and again in 2010.
In 2001, Gibraltar Rock Inc., owned by John and Larry Silvi, filed a request with New Hanover Township to develop a 400' deep hard-rock quarry on 163 acres in northern part of the township. This project would include an asphalt plant, crushing plant, and ready-mix concrete facility. The township denied their permit. Following that denial, Gibraltar Rock filed application #1 with the Zoning Hearing Board (known as GR-1) and requested hearings before the ZHB. The hearings started in May 2001.
While the GR-1 hearings continued, Gibraltar Rock purchased an additional 76 acres of land in January 2003 and attempted to add-on that acreage to the GR-1 application. The Zoning Hearing Board advised them that the additional 76 acres constitute a new application, with a new series of zoning meetings, which began on March 18, 2003 and are known as GR-2.
In May 2007, the GR-1 application hearings concluded. The Zoning Hearing Board granted a special exception to allow quarrying in the “heavy industrial” district only and stipulated more than twenty conditions. In June 2007, Gibraltar Rock filed an appeal to the Court of Common Pleas in Montgomery County. The court hearing was held in July 2011; Gibraltar Rock’s challenge was denied by the court in November 2011. Gibraltar Rock then filed an appeal to the Commonwealth Court of Penna.
The GR-1 Commonwealth Court hearing was held in Philadelphia in May 2013. By unanimous decision of the court, Gibraltar Rock’s appeal was denied in October 2013. One month later, Gibraltar Rock filed a “Petition for Allowance of Appeal” to the Penna. Supreme Court, but that petition was denied in May 2014. All of the above means that Gibraltar Rock must abide by the New Hanover Zoning Hearing Board decision of June 2007, all local ordinances, and all state regulations.
The GR-2 zoning board hearings concluded in August 2009. In January 2010, the ZHB rendered the same decision as they did in GR-1 – granting a “special exception” in the HI District, with conditions. Both Gibraltar Rock and New Hanover Township filed an appeal of the decision to the Court of Common Pleas. As of 2018, neither party has requested a court date for this appeal.
In July 2009, Gibraltar Rock presented their third application (GR-3) to the township zoning hearing board. This application included the GR-1 and GR-2 land, plus an additional 50 acres, with a total acreage of close to 300 acres. Our attorney, Thomas Keenan, along with the township attorney and several other attorneys representing area landowners, made a “motion to dismiss Application-3” based on a legal issue. In September 2009, the township ZHB dismissed GR-3 based on our legal challenge and that of the other attorneys.
At that point, Gibraltar Rock filed a series of six appeals to the Court of Common Pleas and Commonwealth Court, hoping the court would overturn the Zoning Hearing Board’s dismissal of their application-3. Gibraltar Rock failed in all six appeals filed.
Zoning hearings began in April 2015 and concluded in June 2017. This application includes 82 acres, comprised of some parcels from the GR-2 application, and newly purchased 18 acres from Ethan Good’s property that is now the Hoff VC HSCA contamination site. The Zoning Hearing Board announced their decision in September 2017. The Board granted a special exception with “conditions” related to the possible contamination from the Hoff VC site. This decision has been appealed by the Township, Gibraltar Rock, and Ban-the-Quarry.
Settlements attempted in 2009 and 2010:
Gibraltar Rock, along with the special counsel for the township and the township solicitor, began meeting (in private) in early 2008. During this year, the township solicitor told us there was “nothing new” with Gibraltar Rock, until near the end of 2008 when he admitted the Township and Gibraltar Rock were “talking”. In January 2009, we learned that Gibraltar Rock had presented a settlement stipulation for approval and that the following month the township was prepared to vote on the settlement.
Immediately, Ban-the-Quarry hired legal counsel: Christopher Mullaney of Red Hill, and Thomas Keenan of Collegeville. We demanded a public hearing, at which our attorney, Chris Mullaney, demanded that the Township allow the residents to view the “settlement stipulation”. A second meeting was scheduled in March 2009, to hear public comment. At this meeting, we had two attorneys present. Hundreds of residents with the settlement agreement in hand, turned out to strongly object to the details of the agreement. Attorney Tom Keenan gave the Board of Supervisors the opinion that the proposed settlement agreement was beyond the jurisdiction of the Court of Common Pleas.
At a third meeting in March 2009, the Board of Supervisors voted not to approve the settlement stipulation but to allow the agreement to expire. Gibraltar Rock was very angry with this decision, as their mining permit was due to expire unless quarrying began that year.
Second settlement offer:
In June 2010, Gibraltar Rock submitted another settlement stipulation to township attorney, Robert Brant. Mr. Brant advised Gibraltar Rock to first send it to Ban-the-Quarry for our agreement. Our committee generated a response to Gibraltar Rock’s proposal, with the input of local residents. We detailed why we would not accept the agreement, and we also submitted our demands for a settlement. Gibraltar Rock rejected our response.
Land Development Plans:
In 2010, the Court of Common Pleas advised Gibraltar Rock that they cannot begin the quarry without a township-approved plan. Due to illegal work on the quarry property, there is currently a court injunction preventing any work on the quarry properties.
In October 2010, Gibraltar Rock filed a “preliminary plan” to the township Planning Commission. Hearings were held from January 2011 through August 2014. Our attorney and engineer were present at all meetings. In early 2015, Gibraltar Rock began meeting with the Township regarding the preliminary land development plan. Residents were not permitted to attend those meetings. In June 2015, the New Hanover Board of Supervisors rushed through approval of the preliminary plan, ignoring the objections of many residents, our legal counsel, and our engineer.
In August 2015, Gibraltar Rock appeared before the Planning Commission requesting a recommendation for final plan approval. Residents, our attorney, and our engineer wasted our time in objecting to details of the plan. We asked questions of the township consultants and Commission, but our questions were ignored. The Planning Commission, advised by then-solicitor, Paul Bauer, voted to recommend final plan approval to the Board of Supervisors. Resolution 15-15 was attached to that recommendation.
In the fall of 2017, Gibraltar Rock filed a final land development plan. As of January 2018, their plan has not been viewed by the Board of Supervisors.
Gibraltar’s Mining Permit:
In 2014, the Penna. Environmental Hearing Board ruled that their mining permit had been invalid since 2009, and ordered the company to apply for renewal of the mining permit, including the NPDES permit. The Township, Ban-the-Quarry, State Rep. Marcy Toepel, and Senator Bob Mensch, met at the DEP office in August 2017. The mining permit was renewed by the DEP in July 2018.