Not in my backyard!
Pennsy Supply, the largest concrete/asphalt producer in the Harrisburg area, asked if I would help them obtain a greenfield quarry site southwest of Carlisle in Penn Township. Their geologist confirmed that the general area was good for a quarry operation. Many outcroppings were obvious indications of rock below the surface. Although the engineers had selected three possible sites, this was their first choice. The property was in an estate as the owner had recently passed away. If the projections of reserves that lay below the surface were accurate, this would be an excellent acquisition for Pennsy Supply.
One of the three heirs to the estate lived directly across from the 250-acre field, which we had deemed “the quarry.” One of the other two had a long-term desire to move back to his parent’s farm (at the quarry), build a house, and enjoy the peaceful serenity of the area.
There were no public utilities and access to the property (for trucks) would have to be totally reconstructed. Being a populated Amish area, one of our concerns was mixing the cement trucks with the horse and buggy traffic. Additionally, Big Spring, a local stream close to the site, was a protected waterway. We knew we would have to do a substantial amount of hydrogeological studies in order to prove that we were not impacting Big Spring, or any of the three adjacent watersheds.
However, at our first meeting in the municipality of approximately 400–500 residents, there were 100 people in attendance. Most were not pleased that a quarry was slated to open in their neighborhood.
It was apparent that somebody was going to have to deal with the residents on a one-to-one basis to allay their concerns and issues.
ultimately fell to me. Of the team members, I was best trained and suited
for that job. Additionally, I was responsible for keeping our group fully
informed of all the events and communications with neighbors, township
supervisors, and residents as we moved ahead in the approval process.
Therefore we decided to keep the information to ourselves. An accurate plan with no technical flaws became our focal point.
July 14, 2000:
In subsequent meetings, I involved the mining engineer and we took the executor to several quarries so he could understand the operation.
Although the executor was our main source of contact, his brother and sister were involved as beneficiaries of the estate and were part of the process. We reviewed the projected timeframe for permitting process lease vs. sale of the land, and the amount of land-criteria important to both Seller and Buyer. We started to develop plans to show the Sellers.
March 6, 2001:
In the meantime, we spent a lot of time with the Seller explaining the development that he would see and hear from a 250-acre quarry directly across the road from his residence. We wanted him to understand its impact on his family and their quality of life.
I met with the Pennsy Supply team, which was comprised of a mining consultant/engineer, a civil engineer, a hydrogeologist, an attorney (eventually two), a real estate agent (myself), and three to four mining expert from within Pennsy Supply.
Penn Township had no zoning, which worked in our favor. However, it was a politically active municipality in disarray. In the upcoming months, just prior to the submission of our plans, the Board of Supervisors (three members) would fire their Planning Commission and assume their duties. They would then fire the Township Secretary and eventually the Road Master, with one Supervisor absorbing these responsibilities too.
We decided not to alert the Township of our plans until we knew we could file our plan and had developed a strategy to present it.
Although they had no zoning, they had previously worked on their comprehensive plan and could have instituted zoning rather quickly, but it never materialized. We continued setting up meetings with the neighbors and Supervisors (the latter one at a time, in order not to break the Sunshine Laws).
Everyone was willing to meet, but remained somewhat reserved. The meetings allowed us to put a “face” on the quarry project, so concerned residents could better understand it in terms familiar to them. Their biggest concern turned out to be the potential damage to their wells.
March 11, 2002:
Additionally, we held sessions at the township building every two weeks. It allowed the residents to meet with us informally and ask questions. We brought our entire team so the appropriate person could answer the variety of questions asked.
May 10, 2002:
Our strategy was producing positive results. The first township meeting had over 100 residents in attendance. Our second meeting, a bi-monthly “educational session,” brought in 56 people. The next township meeting had 51 people in attendance. The next educational session brought in 26 people. This kept going until we only had 6-7 people at our educational meetings and less than 10 people at our township meetings for our subdivision plan. Even the aspects of land development with which we had to comply (even though there was no zoning) only had 5-10 people at the meetings.
We continued to meet with farmers, concerned residents, and members of the different watershed associations.
May 14, 2002:
We were also funding and providing annual maintenance for a $100,000 traffic light at a dangerous intersection close to the quarry.
We had always stressed that the Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) would protect the residents’ rights in the event of a well situation.
The residents were far from convinced and actually “scared” because of a situation that occurred in a neighboring municipality with a quarry operated by another company. Their wells went out and nine months later people were still arguing who was at fault and who should pay. Some had water tanker trucks still sitting in their yards.
As long as there were “negotiations” in progress, I realized DEP took a hands-off policy! We became proactive. We agreed to immediately replace any wells that went out within 2,500+ feet from the quarry (by law we were only required to go 1,000 feet). We agreed to bond the program so the Supervisors could force the issue if we decided to “drag our feet.” After the well’s immediate replacement we would then determine who was at fault. If the quarry were at fault then Pennsy Supply would pay.
It produced the desired results and we believe it was the only program of its kind in the industry. It was a hit with the residents and difficult for the supervisors to dispute.
Additionally, we brought in a hydrogeologist, as often requested, to talk with watershed individuals, farmers and residents–who had lingering concerns about their wells.
We continued to review the residential real estate agent’s findings regarding property values. The education process and constant communication were becoming very successful.
We did not expect our final permit until the fourth quarter of 2003 and needed cooperation until that time. As we demonstrated our proactivity again the neighbors, although frustrated and scared in some instances, continued to work with us. We left all lines of communication open and encouraged them to stay in touch between our calls and ask questions as they occurred.
June 26, 2003:
March 5, 2004:
It might be difficult because although Pennsy would have to pay for the legal expenses, DEP would join them in their defense. The appeal would have to be disputed on the basis of fact, not emotion. With all the retesting needed to refute our findings, the process would be long, arduous and expensive. We believed this would minimize the chances for an appeal, but we could not totally rule it out. We remained vigilant.
April 5, 2004:
Pennsy Supply focused on owning this quarry within the next 30 days. It was a long journey, but focused and well thought out.
May 10, 2004:
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