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Since 2001, the Silvi Group, a Bucks County concrete company, has been trying to obtain permits and approved plans to build a quarry, asphalt plant, and concrete plant in New Hanover Township on 240 acres near the New Hanover-Upper Frederick Elementary School. Considerable acreage has been added to the original 240 acres.
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, Rt. 663 and Rt. 73 (Big Rd), throughout the Gilberstville & Perkiomenville areas.
Since 2001, the New Hanover Board of Supervisors, along with the Zoning Hearing Board and community efforts of the Paradise Watchdogs / Ban-the-Quarry, 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 Surface Mining Permit. As of 2022, Gibraltar Rock has no mining permit, no Authorization to mine, and no land development plan approved by the Township.
Below is a detailed explanation of Gibraltar Rock’s efforts since 2001.
Following is a summary of four Gibraltar Rock applications to New Hanover Township. When the applications were denied, the company filed an appeal with the New Hanover Zoning Hearing Board, requesting a special exception to quarry on their heavy-industrial and light-industrial zoned land. Also included is a short summary of settlement offers and attempts to obtain approved plans from the Township.
In 2001, Gibraltar Rock Inc, owned by John and Larry Silvi, filed a request with New Hanover Township to construct a 400' deep hard-rock quarry on 163 acres in the northern part of the township. This project would include an asphalt plant, crushing plant, and ready-mix concrete facility. The township denied their permit. Gibraltar Rock then filed application #1 with the Zoning Hearing Board (known as GR-1) and requested hearings before the ZHB. The hearings began in May 2001 and concluded in 2007.
While the GR-1 hearings continued, Gibraltar Rock purchased an additional 76 acres of land in January 2003 and attempted to add 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. This application was 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 indicates that Gibraltar Rock must abide by the New Hanover Zoning Hearing Board decision of June 2007, all local ordinances, and all state regulations.
This application (GR-2) contained the 76 acres that Gibraltar Rock was not permitted to add to the GR-1 application. Zoning Board Hearings began on March 18, 2003 and 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. This appeal has never advanced to the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas.
In July 2009, Gibraltar Rock presented their third application (GR-3) to the NH Zoning Hearing Board. This application included the GR-1 and GR-2 land, plus an additional 50 acres, with a total 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 Board Hearings began in April 2015 and concluded in June 2017. This application included 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 was appealed by the Township, Gibraltar Rock, and Ban-the-Quarry.
The appeal was heard on July 9, 2019, in the Court of Common Pleas, by Judge Jeffrey Saltz. He rendered his decision on Aug 16, 2019. The judge modified “5” of the “16” conditions set by the ZH Board. Judge Saltz stated in his decision, “The Court does not pass on the merits of the environmental issues argued by the Township and individual Intervenors (Ban-the-Quarry). Those issues are of significant concern. But, the Township’s appeal, and Ban the Quarry’s appeal, must fail because it is based on matters that are preempted. The Non-Coal Act commits these environmental concerns to the scientific engineering and legal expertise of the DEP.” This was a partial win for both sides.
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 continually told us there was “nothing new” with Gibraltar Rock, until the fall 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 we were told that the township was prepared to vote on the settlement within the following month.
Ban-the-Quarry immediately hired legal counsel. 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. Our 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 about this announcement, 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 in 2009, 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. For unknown reasons, Gibraltar Rock terminated the meetings with the Planning Commission.
In January 2015, Gibraltar Rock asked the Township for preliminary and final approval of the plan submitted to the Planning Commission in 2010. In March 2015, the township solicitor chose not to allow the Planning Commission to review the plan first. The plan was to be reviewed only by the township planner, township engineer, and solicitor. This plan was then submitted to the Board of Supervisors. The Supervisors only had this plan for less than 3 months (for review), then in June 2015 the Board of Supervisors granted approval of the plan. The Board ignored the objections of many residents, Ban the Quarry’s legal counsel, and Ban the Quarry’s professional engineer.
In August 2015, Gibraltar Rock appeared before the Planning Commission requesting a recommendation for final plan approval based on the approved preliminary plan. 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. Due to the requirements of the Resolution, the company did not obtain final land development approval.
Fall of 2017: Gibraltar Rock filed a final land development plan. This plan was put on hold by Gibraltar Rock. Oct 2020: NH Planning Commission rejected the final plan.
Oct 2020: NH Board of Supervisors rejected the final plan.
Dec 2020: Gibraltar Rock submitted a 4th revision of the final plan.
Feb 2021: Planning Commission – unanimous vote to reject the 4th revision.
Feb 2021: Board of Supervisors - unanimous vote to reject the 4th revision.
Gibraltar Rock filed two appeals in county court, and they are still pending in 2022.
One of the conditions of the 2015 preliminary plan approval was that Gibraltar Rock would have all the necessary state approvals (mining permits, authorization to mine). As of 2022, Gibraltar Rock has not met this condition.
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, 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 for a discussion with all counsel present at the meeting. The mining permit was renewed by the DEP in July 2018, with conditions involving any migration onto the quarry property from the adjacent Hoff VC HSCA hazardous waste site.
The Township and Ban-the-Quarry appealed this renewal. In October 2019 there was a five-day trial before the PA Environmental Hearing Board (panel of five judges) in Norristown, PA. The EHB rendered their decision in April 2020, in our favor. The Board found that the Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) erred in issuing the permit renewal unless there is a schedule for future clean-up activities at the Hoff VC hazardous waste site. The result: Gibraltar Rock’s mining permits and Authorization to Mine were rescinded (rather than remanded for renewal).
In 2020, Gibraltar Rock appealed the EHB decision to the PA Commonwealth Court. In June 2021, the Commonwealth Court voted to reverse the EHB’s order and remanded this matter to the PA-DEP in Pottsville, PA – to direct Gibraltar Rock on what they must do to obtain a renewal of their mining permit pursuant to the Non-Coal Act of Dec. 1984. In July 2021, New Hanover Township, Ban-the-Quarry, and the Penna DEP in Harrisburg have filed appeals to the Penna. Supreme Court. We expect this case to be heard sometime in mid-to-late 2022.