July 1, 2008
Simply planting rows of evergreen trees at a Pennsylvania operation helps solve concerns about berming/screening issues, while creating a buffer to keep it productive.
by Tina Grady Barbaccia, Senior Editor
At Martin Stone Quarries’ Bechtelsville, Pa., location, the operation is in the final stages of wrapping up the permitting process to more than double its size.
Operators say they hope to expand the operation from 160 to 340 acres, and with just one more appeal to finish up, the site will soon be on its way. Although the permitting process is never effortless, Rod Martin, co-owner of Martin Stone Quarries, Inc., says this time around it has moved along fairly quick and without too many headaches.
“We’re getting this done in about two to three years,” Martin says. “That’s pretty fast for this kind of expansion.”
Such a large expansion could have brought on a great deal of controversy. So what was his secret? “The difference between this expansion and the previous one is that we did a lot of groundwork ahead of time,” he says. Martin says he obtained a list of all the adjoining property owners, called each of them, and then sat down with them at their homes.
“Then when you get to the first public meeting, it won’t be the first time they see you. They know what’s coming and what’s going on. Even if they aren’t on board with it, it won’t come as a surprise. This makes a big difference,” he adds. “Face time is really important.”
Screening and berming was a large part of what helped sell nearby residents on the expansion. Martin says his operation agreed to build a screening berm of at least 30 feet of evergreen trees, and on top of the berm, two rows of evergreens will be planted about every 8 feet. “In 30 years, it will be a huge berm that completely blocks any view,” Martin points out. “We’re also planting flowering grasses on the berm.”
What’s ironic is that the operation will be moving its asphalt and concrete plants closer to neighbors, but it’s compensating by moving the plants into a valley – off the hill on which the plants are currently situated. “With the dirt we move, we’ll be cutting the field down about 100 feet,” Martin says. “We’ll move everything to the valley. This helps us because we are effectively hiding the asphalt plant from view. They’ll [the neighbors] will see less of us, we’ll get more work done, and everyone will be happy.”
When approaching the township commissioners, Martin says, those involved in the quarry’s permitting process spoke with all the neighbors beforehand. Martin and his team presented each neighbor with artistic drawings of where the operation is currently located and where it will be. “This way they were all on board when we applied for the permit,” Martin says. “The biggest selling point is that we were hiding it from view.”
The screening helped, but it was the relationships that have been built throughout the community that really made a difference. Every year, Martin Stone Quarries sponsors “Shop with the Cops,” a charity event in which police officers go to two local schools in the area and choose needy kids to take shopping for Christmas. Martin Stone Quarries donates its own merchandise, such as hats and shirts, and then gives the police department about $5,000 to use for the shopping trips.
“We’ve been here for more than 55 years so we have some really good relationships,” Martin notes. “The screening helped, but having the community see how active we are was really important. We are active with the schools and local youth baseball. We aren’t invisible to our community. We always try to help out where we can.”