Andrea Ferich, executive director of the Penns Valley Conservation Association, told a group of Haines Township supervisors not to vacate a part of Broad Road for mining use.
After all, the PVCA’s goal is to preserve the rural heritage and environment of the valley.
But in a unanimous decision at Wednesday night’s meeting, the board voted to approve the road closure in front of a standing-room only crowd at the municipal building. They also accepted the deed of dedication for Chicory Road — a bypass that would connect and allow access to Broad Road from Bartges Road that run parallel.
Township solicitor Timothy Schoonover said an agreement was made between the township and Con-Stone Inc. on Dec. 15, 2011, that allowed the company to mine through a portion of Broad Road in return for $36,483.25, or 25 cents a ton of Valentine limestone underneath the road.
Residents have been fighting the township by saying there are personal and environmental impacts of blasting, dust, trucking and machinery noises.
In response, Con-Stone owner and operator Jeff Confer said he’s just trying to expand the business that’s been mining in the area since the mid-1990s.
And the company’s attorney said the environmental impacts are minimal.
“Con-Stone is a service mining operator that mines limestone,” said lawyer Dwight Koerber, of Clearfield. “They’re heavily regulated by DEP (Department of Environmental Protection). DEP has granted the permits to cover the existing area, and if they didn’t grant the permits, we wouldn’t be here, but they did grant the permits so there’s nothing new in the operations.”
Two community members spoke in its favor, including Aaronsburg resident Rebecca Hart, who said she didn’t think there was anything wrong with the Confer family trying to expand business and provide jobs to locals.
On the other hand — in a civilized dispute — about a dozen locals in opposition confronted the board.
“We have environmental concerns, concerns about hazardous waste, noise and road safety,” said Marcia Case, of Aaronsburg, and president of Concerned Citizens for Haines Township. “We’re subject to all that blasting.”
Earlier this year, Concerned Citizens for Haines Township was created to represent residents in the town, Case said.
It includes about 20 members with a goal to keep open communication between residents and elected officials.
“We aim to voice the health, safety and general welfare of residents,” Case said, who moved to the area in 1999. “We like to be a resource to people in the community.”
Residents said they have voiced their opinion about mining in the field since 2005, and mining through the road for equally as long, Case said.
When asked if she saw any pros to the agreement, Case replied “no.”
“Even the compensation is inadequate,” Case said. “How do you think this $36,000 is adequate compensation for all we will use?”
If the monies were split equally among every resident in Haines Township, it would amount to about $27 — not enough to compensate operators for gas, and wear and tear on a vehicle since the bypass adds about a half mile to the route, said Brian Burger, of Coburn.
Supervisor Daryl Schafer said no studies have been done to determine how many vehicles occupy that stretch of road daily.
The bypass — to be called Chicory Road — was constructed about two months ago to connect Bartges Road to Broad Road, Schafer said.
The township did not pay for construction, Schafer said. It was part of the agreement that Con-Stone would pay for the bypass.
“That’s done,” Schafer said. “Basically it all had to be done, signed and everything before we could vacate Broad Road and accept the dedication for Chicory (Road). That was part of the agreement that was accepted in 2011.”
Catherine Smith, another member of Concerned Citizens for Haines Township, said the group has 30 days to appeal the board’s decision, but did not say if they would go forward with that decision.
Neither the board nor the Confer family said when mining would begin through Broad Road.
“There’s some people who say, ‘Well it’s his land, so he can do whatever he wants,’ but of those opposed, there is a great deal of sadness,” Case said.