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Pennsy Supply
Pennsy Supply
Not in my backyard!

Historical Background:

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.

Property Description:
This property was ideal for a quarry operation due not only to the reserves, but also to its proximity to Interstate 81 and Route 11, which allowed quick access. There were also only a minimal number of nearby residential properties.

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.

My Role:
My role was to make sure that we were able to successfully acquire the property for use as a quarry.

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.

The responsibility 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.

January 5, 2002:
We met at the Pennsy Supply office in Harrisburg for our initial planning session. We had not yet started the process to acquire the site, and already realized that there were politics in play in this municipality.

Therefore we decided to keep the information to ourselves. An accurate plan with no technical flaws became our focal point.

July 14, 2000:
I made the initial contact with the executor of the estate. We met so I could explain our concept and it was obvious there was limited motivation to sell the parcel.

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:
The price was now established with the Buyer. We decided to pick up the two adjacent rental homes (for control purposes) also owned by the Seller at an additional cost.

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.

August 26, 2001:
I met with the Seller and we came to an agreement on the general terms of a deal. He was prepared to go to contract.

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.

September 7, 2001:
Our first team session lasted three hours. Our job was to design a quarry operation with asphalt and concrete plant capabilities that would be approved by the municipality.

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.

December 14, 2001:
We met again and worked with the property owner and his attorney, and the contract was finally signed. Our group had more strategic sessions and finally dropped our plans off at the township.

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:
We had instituted an “educational program” to answered questions, especially regarding wells. We took the residents on trips to existing quarries to show them a “shot”–how explosives loosened rock from the wall of the quarry. In all cases, the low level of noise and lack of anything exciting actually disappointed the attendees.

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:
We continued to have meetings with the residents. When property values became a concern, we brought in a residential real estate agent to talk with them. In order to be fair, we bought some of the surrounding houses and, in at least one case, agreed to pay for the inconvenience that could be caused to that resident.

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:
Our subdivision plan was approved on a 3-0 vote. As part of our plan, we were bringing fire protection to this side of the township by burying 30,000-gallon water tanks on our property to be filled with our well, which could be used by the township fire company in case of an emergency.

We were also funding and providing annual maintenance for a $100,000 traffic light at a dangerous intersection close to the quarry.

August 30, 2002:
We decided it would be prudent for us to come up with a well water replacement program in the event any wells went “out” after the quarry was in.

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.

September 9, 2002:
Citizen’s had questions regarding the real estate taxes pertaining to the quarry. Some people believed we would cost the municipality a lot of lost revenue. We brought a tax expert to one of our educational sessions and to a township meeting. Although a quarry does not typically generate a large tax revenue, it does create a “few more dollars” than agricultural land.

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.

September 24, 2002:
The last Supervisors meeting lasted more than three hours. They were impressed with our program to protect the municipality and its residents. Although there was “fear of the unknown,” they approved our land development plan. Now the project was on its way for approval through DEP.

January 26, 2003:
Unfortunately, a few of the residents that had worked with us by selling us their houses were receiving threatening phone calls. We immediately got the police and a private detective involved. We talked with the affected people and paid to improve security around their properties–lighting, fencing, monitors, etc.

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:
We received a letter from DEP voicing their concerns, all of which we could address. We met at Pennsy Supply to develop a response strategy. It was going very well, but we still had to address the letter and wait for the DEP’s response to our additional information. Final permits were expected in October or November.

February 20, 2004:
DEP was finally focused on our mine drainage permit. They sent us letters with questions. We answered those questions. They requested meetings. We obliged. They also met with the opponents of the quarry and others that had an interest in understanding the impact this quarry might have on their lives. DEP was diligent in allowing those people to get into the process and obtain first hand information. DEP finally responded they would be issuing the permit in March.

March 5, 2004:
The permit had been issued the previous week and it was posted in the Pennsylvania Bulletin, which signified the beginning of our thirty (30) day appeal period during which parties with “standing” could appeal the issuance of the permit.

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:
No appeals were filed and our 30 days were up. Settlements for the property and with the neighbors were being set up.

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:
The groundbreaking ceremony in Penn Township celebrated the first greenfield quarry in Central Pennsylvania in 50 years. Congratulations to everyone involved.


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