The operator of gravel pit in Cape May, New Jersey, has tested the patience of the Township Committee by not only digging deeper and wider than the current ordinance allows, but falling short in its restoration promises.
On Monday night, Marc Deblasio, township engineer, read parts of a letter from the operator of Pierson’s Gravel Pit to committee members that indicated the pit was deeper and wider than the township’s ordinance allows, and that about 65 percent of restoration work at the pit on Indian Trail Road is finished.
According to Deblasio, the pit was over-dug horizontally and vertically, encroaching on the surrounding buffer and exceeding the maximum depth of 30 feet.
“This gravel pit has a history of issues,” Committeeman Dan Lockwood said at the Monday, Dec. 7 committee meeting.
“We have given them ample time to fix those issues,” he said. “Are they pretending to fix them and continuing to dig?”
Lockwood wondered whether it was time to issue a “cease and desist” order to the company. “Do we put someone out there and say that you must mitigate and not dig?”
Deblasio noted that the company had not yet finished their license application for 2015, and yet indicated that it planned to apply for a license in 2016.
Mayor Tim Donohue said that this year, the committee unanimously passed a strengthened quarry ordinance to protect residents and taxpayers in the township. “We don’t want to be unreasonable, or put anyone out of business,” he said. “But there comes a time when enough is enough.”
The mayor questioned whether pit operators had made a good faith effort in completing restoration. “We’ve strengthened the ordinance, and there comes a point where the rubber meets the road,” he said. “How long before we shut them down?”
Since 2013, Donald Rogers Inc., which owns the gravel pit, has sought variances to the township’s quarry ordinance, asking to dig as deep as 60 feet. R.E. Pierson Construction Co. is affiliated with Donald Rogers Inc.
Over the years, however, the committee has not budged on its maximum depth, and this year the committee rewrote the 1983 gravel pit ordinance, in a move to tighten township regulations governing mines and quarries.
In May, it was the contractor’s repeated requests to dig deeper to supply gravel for the Parkway project that got the attention of local neighbors who questioned whether the quarry met even the requirements 32-year-old ordinance.
Those residents’ questions combined with the contractor’s requests convinced committee members that they needed to have a closer look at the regulations governing sand and gravel mines.
In May, the committee unanimously introduced a revised ordinance that retained the 30-foot maximum depth on gravel pits, and added new restrictions about when the quarry can be operated, and how a quarry must be maintained.
While the ordinance saw several revisions between May and September, when it was unanimously approved, Donohue and Lockwood, along with Committeeman Michael Clark stood firm on a 30-foot maximum depth.
“The public has been very adamant about these pits,” said township business administrator Connie Mahon on Tuesday.
“The committee has to look out for the best interests of all of the taxpayers and residents, and not just one entity,” she said. “The committee has to look out for the safety of the whole community.”
While committee members wouldn’t comment on specific actions against the gravel pit owners, this week, Deblasio, Mahon and Marc Karavan, the township attorney, are working on a letter to the company that will likely express the committee’s displeasure with the operations at the pit.
Mahon said that she couldn’t comment on the contents of the letter before it was finished, however, it would be publically available, likely by week’s end.