A decision on a requested zoning change has been delayed until at least next month in West Donegal Township, where more than 40 residents gathered Monday evening, many criticizing the proposal, which could lead to quarry-related digging and blasting on what is now agricultural land.
Supervisors voted unanimously at a Monday zoning hearing to table the request for rezoning of about 30 acres near the intersection of Heisey Quarry and Landis Road in the Rheems area.
The request was made by officials at R.E. Pierson Materials Corp. — a rock quarrying company based in Bridgeport, New Jersey — as part of a plan to expand an existing limestone quarry.
After the hearing, supervisor Roger Snyder spoke briefly about the decision to delay, saying township leaders still have some unanswered questions they’d like answers to before approving or denying the proposal.
Snyder listened to nearly an hour’s worth of public comment about the requested change, during which many locals spoke about how blasting at the existing quarry disrupts their lives.
Speakers included Margaretta S. Lisi, who lives on Heisey Quarry Road, within sight of the proposed quarry expansion.
“We wanted to live in the country with the view of the beautiful farmland,” Lisi said, earlier explaining that she was “flabbergasted” to learn of the plan that would convert land currently classified for agricultural use to an area for mining and natural extraction.
‘Most ideal place’
The area is just east of Landis Road, adjacent to the southwestern edge of an existing R.E. Pierson operation at 5 Heisey Quarry Road.
That existing operation already is zoned for mining and natural extraction.
In addition to the existing quarry operation, the proposed rezoning site would be surrounded by agricultural and industrial land, according to drawings submitted to township officials.
At the Monday hearing, attorney Erik M. Hume, representing R.E. Pierson, said company officials have requested the 30-acre rezoning — only part of the adjacent property now owned by local farmers — so that they can expand.
If all goes according to plan, the 30 acres would eventually be blasted and quarried, he said.
“This is really the most ideal place for expanding this quarry in the township,” Hume said, noting the company’s existing presence in the area, which provides proof that mineable resources are in the ground.
Similar comments were made by Rick Caranfa, vice president of Akens Engineering Associates Inc., which also represented R.E. Pierson at the hearing.
“It makes sense,” Caranfa said of the proposed rezoning and expansion. “You can’t just put a quarry anywhere.”
The current operation provides more than a dozen jobs, which means income for the local community, said Hume of the Saxton & Stump law firm.
‘A big dirt pile’
But nearly all residents who spoke at the meeting were less positive about the current operation, with multiple people talking about how their houses shake when blasting takes place.
Lisi came accompanied by an attorney, Veronica Morrison of the Mette, Evans & Woodside law firm. At multiple points, Morrison sparred with township solicitor Josele Cleary about whether the hearing had been properly advertised. Cleary maintained that it was.
Some residents even claimed that blasting at the existing quarry resulted in cracked walls and foundations.
“The windows shake and rattle,” said Jennifer Pollock, of Donegal Drive.
Then she criticized the existing quarry — and its dirt and rock piles — as unsightly, noting they can be seen when traveling nearby roadways.
“What is happening to our community? It’s going to be a big dirt pile,” she said, guessing an expansion would mean additional blasting and shaking.
Others worried that quarry work could cause sinkholes and disrupt residential drinking water wells.
Earlier Monday, a sign advertising the zoning hearing could be seen, staked into the ground near the intersection of Heisey Quarry and Landis roads. Beyond it, an expanse of verdant cropland stretched toward a number of farm buildings.
Several times during the hearing, residents spoke about Lancaster County as an agricultural area and expressed concerns that farmable land would be lost if a zoning change was granted.
To that, Hume spoke up, telling those gathered at the hearing to consider that other industries can be supported and profitable in the area, too.
“It can’t just be all agriculture,” he said.
Hume and Caranfa offered other assurances, telling those in attendance that any expansion would have to adhere to environmental regulations and be permitted by state regulators before it could move forward.
That did little to pacify the more outspoken residents in attendance, who could be heard mocking the R.E. Pierson representatives as they spoke.
In fact, the crowd applauded loudly when the supervisors voted to table a decision, delaying it to a later date.
Board Chairman Douglas Hottenstein said the proposal could be considered again as early as next month.