Residents dig in against quarry plan

August 21, 2003|by Donald R. Currier

ST. THOMAS, Pa. - A crowd of more than 100 people filled one of the garage bays and spilled out into the parking lot of the St. Thomas Township Municipal Building Wednesday night, waiting to make their opinions known to the township supervisors on a proposed quarry operation.

As the wait grew longer, several in the crowd expressed their frustration.

"I think the supervisors' actions tonight are disrespectful of the community, because these people showed up to talk about the quarry," said Mike Urban, vice president of Friends and Residents of St. Thomas, or FROST, a group opposed to the quarry.

"They knew we were coming. They could have had it at the firehouse, or someplace a little more convenient," Urban said about an hour into the meeting.


Despite the number of people who turned out for the meeting, visitors' comments on the quarry were the last item on the agenda and did not begin until about 90 minutes into the meeting.

Edmund G. Herald, chairman of the board of supervisors, told the residents that time for the comments was placed at the end of the agenda to allow other township business to be completed. He said there were people at the meeting with business other than the quarry.

"They have not taken a position and we will be asking them to do that tonight," said Amy Smith, another opponent. She said she had asked the board to put the issue at the beginning of the meeting and allow about an hour for discussion.

Smith said many of those attending were older, could not hear, or had to leave early because of other commitments.

"I think this is absolutely horrible," Karen Brady said as she was leaving the meeting before the quarry discussion started. "Those people (supervisors) are not listening."

Before the quarry discussion began, the supervisors approved a subdivision plan for part of the approximately 400-acre property. St. Thomas Development Corp., an affiliate of the Blue Bell, Pa., contracting firm Tony DePaul and Son, requested that about 20 acres of land along U.S. 30 be subdivided from the larger tract that would be developed for the quarry and asphalt and concrete plants.

During that discussion, resident Lee Mixell asked why the township was "going full speed" on the project.

Herald denied that was the case and said the plan to subdivide the smaller lot "met all the requirements of the subdivision plan." The preliminary land development plan for the quarry itself, however, had been sent back to the developer for changes requested last week by the township planning commission, he said.

The planning commission raised 34 issues at that meeting, including requests for more detailed information about sewage service, heavy truck traffic, stormwater management, soil erosion and other topics.

"These are three separate, major industrial operations," FROST President Fran Calverase told the supervisors. He said the group is asking the supervisors to adhere strictly to all its existing ordinances and grant no variances.

Calverase also asked the board to strengthen or pass any ordinances needed to protect the public and make sure all the necessary geological, water and traffic studies are done.

The supervisors have to hire a geologist to review all the studies being done during the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection permitting process for the quarry.

"The DEP does not and will not regulate quality of life issues," Calverase said. "Those issues lie within your charter."

St. Thomas had a zoning ordinance, but it was repealed several years ago, an act some opponents say opened the door for the quarry project.

"We're getting everything we deserve," resident Karry Garland said in reference to zoning repeal.

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