Quarry Rehab Plan Gets Residents' Take
Public testimony on Millington Quarry's plan to prepare spent quarry for future is detailed and specific.
Residents who offered their opinions on the Millington Quarry's so-called rehabilitation plan for the future of the deeply quarried property off Stonehouse Road offered detailed suggestions at Tuesday's Planning Board meeting — and they have more to say.
Resident Bill Allen, also a former Township Committeeman, read three parts of his own plan envisioning how the quarry land might be prepared to someday house a neighborhood on the banks of a recreational lake. However, he also asked the board of a couple of hours to present a plan to move fill from the south side of the quarry to build up a more gradual incline for cliffs that would run along a proposed 50-acre lake on the property.
Allen said the "two to one" slope he would like to see on the north side of the lake still is fairly steep but — and he held up a geometric shape to show the 63 degree cliff he said would tower above the lake as in the quarry's plans — "This, on the other hand, is a killer." He said his plan would involve moving four million cubic yards of material aroud, but not involve bringing additional fill into the site.
Following discussion and a denied request for a synopsis of what he plans to say, the board agreed Allen can return to present his continued testimony at a meeting on Oct. 2.
But hearing that, Millington Quarry's attorney, Michael Lavigne, asked for an earlier hearing date, and noted that the quarry's plan has been before the Planning Board already for 12 hearings before first being presented last November.
Lavigne said that some planning board's limit testimony to about a half-hour for each speaker — but Board Member Anne Parsekian, who was chairing the meeting, said the board had not yet done so.
Parsekian said the board has a full agenda for September. Continuation of public hearings on a plan to build a 4,200-square foot mosque on Church Street in Liberty Corner is scheduled to be continued at the Sept. 4 meeting.
During Tuesday's testimony, Allen called for a return of the quarry's soil expert, Joseph Sorge, to answer additional questions about the possible leaching of contaminants from soil previously trucked into the quarry. Using the quarry's own test data, Allen said that levels of contaminants in a test well on part of the property appeared to be rising in concentration, which was well above DEP guidelines.
He added that the level of concentration roughly aligned with concentration of substances in nearby soil.
Lavigne reminded Allen that the township's own consultant, Dr. Jennifer Wollenberg, had testified that the soil on the property now, even without some sort of remediation, presents no harm to humans, although she had suggested the installation of an additional test well.
Allen also expressed scepticism that the quarry's plan to keep the public from the cliffs over the lake with a fence, dense foliage and buoys in the lake would be foolproof.
Allen also suggested that the Planning Board recommend to the Township Committee — which has the final say on whether to approve the quarry's latest rehabilitation plan, which is supposed to be updated every three years — that perhaps the meadow area that could support future homes should be left as bare rock rather than importing soil at this time.
That would avoid the issue of how much soil would be needed until a specific development plan might be presented, he said in presenting his reasoning.
However, both Lavigne and the board's attorney, Stuart Koenig, objected that the town's ordinance specifically requires the rehabilitation plan to leave the quarry in a condition with ground cover that could support vegetation.
Upon hearing Allen's other suggestions about how a residential development that might contain townhomes could be built by a recreational lake with a pier, Lavigne protested he began the hearings last November by specifying that this plan is not an application for a residential development.
Allen wasn't the only resident to testify on Tuesday.
Resident Suzanne Quigley of St. Nicholas Way off Valley Road testified that when the quarry was in full operation, quality of life in the area suffered greatly as trucks heading to the quarry every morning starting at 6 a.m. cracked windshields, created dust and noise, and required moving a school bus stop off Valley Road.
She said the neighbors' quality of life has improved since the quarrying operation was scaled back and the end of the quarry's life nears.
The evening's testimony began with Lavigne questioning resident Jeff Cappola, also presented to the board as an expert on the basis of his long involvement with property redevelopment and some development projects in New Jersey.
At the previous meeting, Lavigne challenged Cappola's qualifications to testify as an expert on behalf of the public, both due to his training and what he said is Cappola's lack of neutrality.
Cappola said he had worked on many projects that involved bringing soil into construction sites.
Although he admitted that the work sites with which he was involved often accepted soils with some contamination at redevelopment locations that admittedly had some contamination of their own, Cappola said it is almost impossible keep all contamination out of a site such as the quarry.
"This is New Jersey," Cappola said. "No way where you had commercial or industrial activities are you going to get uncontaminated [soil]." he said.
Cappola said that if fill is brought in to pad and smooth steeply quarried areas, it should only come from "virgin" locations, meaning other quarries in the area.