Those attending the March 24 Borough Council meeting in Bloomingdale, New Jersey, can expect to see a couple of presentations regarding Tilcon’s bid to extend its mining operations on a portion of Federal Hill known as the Meer Tract.
Thus far, Tilcon has delivered public presentations on its quarry expansion plans at the Feb. 3 and Feb. 17 Borough Council meetings. This time around, Ross Kushner, executive director of the Pequannock River Coalition, will also be making a presentation. Kushner has been a vocal opponent of advancing mining operations to the northwestern side of Federal Hill where the 180-acre Meer Tract is located.
Kushner will not be the only one making a presentation about Tilcon’s proposal. According to Mayor Jonathan Dunleavy, Borough Engineer Paul Darmofalski is also going to present his analysis of the potential impact that Tilcon’s plans would have on flooding in the borough.
“As we have stated, we are all in the process of learning about the concept and these presentations will provide us with more information,” he said. “We are doing our due diligence.”
In a February 23 letter to the borough, Kushner said Bloomingdale has had a lengthy record of taking action to preserve Federal Hill. Referring back to 1989, Kushner said the borough began making its request to the state Planning Commission to have Federal Hill’s designation changed from a PA2 (suburban) to a PA5 (sensitive), which the state finally consented to in 2001. In 1989, the borough also produced a Natural Resource Inventory that described the steep slopes on Federal Hill, where building should be restricted.
Kushner noted that the borough spent $1.15 million to purchase the 70-acre Bicoastal Tract on Federal Hill in 2002 for preservation purposes.
In 2004, the Highlands Act was enacted, and in 2007, the borough asked the New Jersey Highlands Council to move Federal Hill from a Highlands protected area to a preservation area to provide it with further protection.
But the state declined to switch the designation because the Meer Tract was the subject of a builder’s remedy lawsuit. A settlement was reached that allowed the Meers (Bloomingdale Hill Farms) to build 360 housing units, which included 72 low- and moderate-income units. The agreement portioned 32 acres for development, and the balance of the property preserved as open space, he said.
Kushner said he is concerned about Federal Hill being disturbed because it is considered a high resource value watershed, which is important to maintaining water quality. He has also expressed concerns over the disturbance of steep slopes, which he said could lead to erosion that could result in the silting of wetlands, ponds and streams, causing damage to aquatic habitats.
At the February 17 meeting, Jack Miller, who chairs the borough’s flood mitigation committee, expressed concern that an expansion of quarrying operations could increase flooding. Dunleavy said he would ask Darmofalski to prepare a report that would address potential flooding issues.
During that same meeting, Darmofalski said when the owners of the Meer tract presented an application to the Planning Board for 360 housing units, the plans included controls for water run-off and drainage improvements that would prevent increased flooding in the borough. The plans included two detention basins.
If Tilcon is able to move forward with its plans to extend its quarry operations on the Meer tract, the drainage would have to be studied, but drainage improvements could be designed in a way that would prevent increased flooding, and could actually reduce flooding in the borough, he said.