“We tried to plan for 50 years,” said Gadek. “The Commonwealth Court said that was too long.”
Added Koplin: “The Commonwealth Court felt we could not look at future problems.”
Commonwealth Court sent the case back to Lehigh County’s court with orders that the planning commission should approve the preliminary plan, but with the 25 conditions it had developed.
The township appealed the Commonwealth Court ruling to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, but last March the Supreme Court declined to consider the case.
On May 27, the planning commission was ordered by county Judge Ford to approve the preliminary plan, with the 25 conditions.
All six planning commissioners at the meeting voted for preliminary approval Monday night.
“We don’t have a choice,” said Gadek before the meeting. “We are in violation of the court if we don’t.”
Most of the 25 conditions appear to be technical points similar to those often included in any municipality’s review of a land development plan.
Harris took issue with a few of them.
One condition, for example, prohibits retail sales at the quarry site, “including the extraction operations, asphalt plant and concrete plant.” Harris said there is no definition of retail sales, adding: “Frankly, we don’t know what that means.”
He objected to a condition that states all buffer plantings shall be installed “prior to the commencement of any activities on the property.” He said berms have to be constructed before vegetation buffers, such as pine trees, can be planted.
Another condition is any buffer plantings that die must be replaced within 14 days. Harris said Geryville has no problem with replacing plants that die, but indicated mid-winter and mid-summer are not good times to replace such plants.
Harris argued against a condition that states a hydrogeologic study must be done by Geryville before any quarrying begins, to assure township officials that quarrying will not alter or degrade wetlands and streams.
He said the Commonwealth Court ruling pre-empted any need to do such a study.
Atty. Mark Cappuccio, the township’s solicitor, said both the Commonwealth and county courts sent the matter back to the planning commission for preliminary approval with the 25 conditions that planners “found to be appropriate” in 2011.
“To start opening up conditions would be improper tonight,” said Cappuccio. “You’ve been ordered to approve this with conditions.”
He said if the applicant has any concerns with the conditions, “they can take appropriate action.”
Backenstoe said Harris has the right to request changes to the conditions for Geryville, “but I don’t know that the planning commission has the right to ignore the dictates of the court. You do have a court order which directs you to plan approval subject to the 25 conditions.”
Backenstoe did agree to a one minor word change in the last condition, where the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was referred to as National Fish and Wildlife Service.
In response to Harris’ attempt to make changes in the conditions, Gadek asked: “If the court orders us to grant preliminary approval with the 25 conditions, does anyone get to pick and choose which parts of that we’re going to include?”
The commission chair said she had no problem with clarifying, but was concerned about the legal ramifications of dropping, adjusting or tweaking conditions. “I was thinking we had to do what the court said.”
The lawyer for Geryville said he was attempting to avoid future conflicts by trying to come to agreement on the points he raised. “If everybody agrees to it, nobody’s going to say it’s wrong. The law favors settlements of disputes.”
Harris indicated he will be handling the process of obtaining final plan approval as lawyer for Geryville Materials and said: “All these things will be reconsidered during the final plan review process.”
Lawyer challenges township manager