‘Don’t want you coming in’: Springfield, Bucks County, residents push back on proposed quarry

Upper Tohickon Creek in Bucks County

Upper Tohickon Creek in Bucks County — the Upper Tohickon Creek watershed includes Springfield, Richland, Haycock, and East Rockhill. (Upper Tohickon Creek Watershed Association)

Appeals, explanations and the Jackson 5: That’s what accompanied the Springfield Township Board of Supervisors’ second conditional-use hearing on the proposed development of a two-pit quarry in Upper Bucks County.

The project has been met with apparently universal pushback from residents, who worry that the quarry will pollute their air and groundwater, drive down nearby property values, and endanger the health of the Upper Tohickon Creek and surrounding wetlands. But the developer, H&K Group, claims those are speculative concerns, and that the township’s zoning should technically allow for this type of development.

It’s the task of local officials to decide whose case holds.

Interspersed by the occasional music-filled pause or break for deliberation, Tuesday night’s supervisors’ meeting stretched for three hours as the board continued to gather information toward an eventual decision on the development. One of the key topics of the first hour: Who gets party status?

Party status allows residents or organizations to call or cross-examine witnesses or appeal decisions in the future. In other words, it helps establish who is allowed to speak at the hearings to come, and is granted to those who can prove that they would be substantially and directly affected by the project, usually determined by proximity to the proposed site.

Most parties in the case were granted status at the first hearing last month. But on Tuesday, three additional parties appealed for, and were granted, party status: project site neighbor Aaron Abel, local business Spear Products, and the Clean Air Council.

The council, which was rejected for party status last month, appealed that decision and argued that, as a nonprofit organization, it should be able to challenge a zoning decision if its members are aggrieved by that decision. Several Clean Air Council members were granted party status in September, including Springfield residents Susan Premo, Kyle Fliszar and Harold Yerkes. Approval of party status for the council was met Tuesday night with cheers and applause.

“I have worked my whole life to be where I am without people like you — I’m planning on retirement,” Premo told H&K attorney Joseph LaFlamme. “I don’t want you coming in and destroying my wildlife and my animals and my home.”

For the remainder of the meeting, Scott Drumbore, project engineer for H&K Group, took the floor. He said that about 500,000 tons of rock would be removed annually from the site, which falls between Route 309 and the rural neighborhoods along Springfield Street, Salem Road and Mine Street, just adjacent to the Upper Bucks Rail Trail. Surface mining and extraction would begin at the southern end of the plot, last about 16 to 20 years until mineral resources are depleted, and then move to the north. The quarry pits would be “reclaimed” — backfilled with soil and rock material to support revegetation — and then returned to unmanaged natural habitat.

Drumbore said the quarry would employ 10 people regularly, with access to the site provided through Springfield Street and most truck traffic passing via Route 309. H&K has a 25-year lease on the land, with options to extend the deal.

The next hearing, scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Nov. 10, will allow for further examination and questioning about the quarry application and plans.

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