Middle Township, New Jersey, Township Committee has introduced a new gravel pit ordinance at its meeting on August 17, hoping to strengthen a decades-old rule governing quarries in Middle Township.
This is the committee’s second attempt to pass the ordinance. An earlier version, introduced in May, was tabled by the body at its second reading in June after pit operators pressed the township’s governing body for more time to study the rule. Residents, too, voiced their concerns, asking for noise and depth control.
Driving the rewrite of the 32-year-old ordinance were requests by pit owners who wanted to dig deeper than the allowed 30 feet. Specifically, it was a local contractor’s request to dig deeper to supply gravel for the ongoing Garden State Parkway project that got the attention of local neighbors who questioned whether the quarry met even the requirements 1983 ordinance.
Other pit owners complained to the committee that other townships had ordinances that allowed quarries of greater depths.
“Yes, this was initially driven by several pit owners, who were requesting to be able to dig deeper,” Committeeman Dan Lockwood said in May. “They were saying that some neighboring townships were allowing pits to be dug as deep as 100 feet,” he said. “But just because everybody else does something, doesn’t mean it’s good for us.”
That position was reiterated by Mayor Tim Donohue at a meeting in June to discuss revisions to the ordinance proposed in May.
“I’m aware of other township ordinances that have different depths,” Donohue said during the June 22 work session. “I’m not inclined to change our depth based on that.”
Committeeman Michael Clark has also voiced opposition to allowing pit operators to dig quarries any deeper than the 30 feet allowed in the 1983 ordinance.
The latest version of the ordinance holds firm on quarry depth, as well as adding penalties for mine operators who don’t file for licenses on time each year.
That has been a problem in the past, committee members said. As the ordinance stands, quarry operators have to license their mines yearly, even if they don’t plan to do any digging in a given year. But all too often, pit owners are late, some of them missing the deadline to file a permit by months, business administrator Connie Mahon said in June. Some operators would drop off a check for the license, but neglect township-required paperwork.
The proposed new ordinance adds teeth to filing deadlines. Operators who miss the yearly Nov. 1 filing date, but get the paper work in before Nov. 30 face an additional $250 fee. A $500 fee is tacked onto licenses filed by Dec. 31, and $750 for licenses filed Feb. 1.
Owners who miss that deadline will have their license to operate suspended for a year. “Failure to activate a license within a two-year period shall result in revocation of the license,” according to the ordinance.
Another part of the newly proposed ordinance that wasn’t negotiable for committee members are the hours of operation.
“In our original ordinance, there were not hours of operation, and there was nothing to stop them from operating seven days a week, 24 hours a day,” Lockwood said in May.
That has changed with the newly introduced ordinance, and the hours of operation are tied to township’s noise ordinance: Quarry operations will be limited to 7am to 8pm daily.
The ordinance also clarifies buffer areas around quarries. Previously approved plans will be grandfathered, but new site plans must have a minimum 100-foot buffer of natural vegetation around the pit.
A public hearing and final vote on the ordinance is scheduled for September 21.