Pierson plan will not help Dennis Township

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To the editor:

R.E. Pierson wants Dennis Township to believe that he knows what is best for our community. He’s asking the Zoning Board to go completely against the intent of the master plan and code so that he can build a ready-mix concrete plant and Class B recycling facility, both dirty, heavy industrial activities, in an environmentally sensitive area. So exactly what is in it for Dennis Township? Not much!

Let’s look at the facts:

R. E. Pierson, who doesn’t live in Dennis Township, vacation or take recreation here, looked around for a sand mine to compliment his other businesses. He owns many companies throughout Southern New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware. One of those facilities is in Pleasantville, an existing ready-mix concrete plant and Class B recycling operation, but no sand mine and he can’t just build one. So he finds this property in Dennis Township with a functioning, pre-existing, non-conforming use, a sand mine; a property that has been mined for sand for generations.

To Mr. Pierson, it was a perfect location for his business model. It doesn’t matter that the zoning does not allow for concrete plants or Class B recycling operations; that’s a minor inconvenience. He’s not at all concerned with the township’s master plans, code or the ecological sensitivity and significance of adjacent sites like the Great Cedar Swamp, Cape May Wildlife Refuge as well as two major watershed areas. The master plan that specifically calls for the reclamation of this area back to its native habitat and under definition of business zone and in the code it explicitly states “Uses in this district should be free from objectionable odors, fumes, dirt, vibration and noise.” That doesn’t matter to Mr. Pierson. So he purchases the property in September 2006. Three months later, he starts the first application for several D variances; the most significant and serious variance one can request. Usually one would apply for the variance first prior to purchasing the property.

One of Pierson’s arguments is that they need to increase the profitability of the sand mine by supplying sand for the asphalt business, not here in New Jersey but in other states. The trucks full of sand transported to Pennsylvania come back to the township fully loaded with stone to make the ready-mix concrete. Not sure where all this concrete is going since we already have a ready-mix concrete plant in the immediate area and we are in a recession with little construction on the horizon. Pierson acknowledges how tough times are now and how they’re just not making enough money from that sand mine. They simply need two more non-conforming heavy industrial uses to make ends meet. However, there is no real need in the township or the region for another concrete plant.

According to the Municipal Land Use Law, the Zoning Board cannot grant a D variance based on inability to make the most possible profit and the applicant must prove a need for the use in the township or immediate area in order to validate going against the intent of the master plan.

Now we come to the Class B recycling facility. Concrete and asphalt contain known carcinogens and toxins. The materials are put into a huge industrial-sized crusher that produces fine particulates which can be released into the air and carried off by the wind. There is a water system designed to mitigate airborne particulates but there’s nothing to diminish the noise and vibration the machinery creates. Don’t let the term recycle fool you; these are not the recyclables you put out at the curb every week. As a matter of fact the township won’t take concrete or asphalt. Neither does the county, due to the fact that there are enough private contractors to more that serve the public need. A report from the county showed that in 2006 the private facilities in the county were operating at only 29 percent of their capacity; this was the highest capacity reached in the past 11 years. Clearly there is absolutely no need for another Class B recycling facility.

Pierson is actually trying to present Class B recycling as “inherently beneficial to the general welfare” and therefore fulfills the purposes of zoning. Class B Recycling is not inherently beneficial on its own. Pierson has an obligation, under the Municipal Land Use Law, to prove to the Zoning Board that there is a need for Class B Recycling in the area that is not already being filled in order for it to be considered “inherently beneficial,” which would be something like electric lines or a hospital. The general welfare is talking about the public as whole not one or two individuals, certainly not just one company’s benefit.

So where is the benefit to the township? What about the increase in tax ratable? The property tax increases with any improvement made but it depends on the improvement. It’s a building that houses the machinery that makes concrete. Although there would be a slight increase it would not be significant. Besides, the Zoning Board is not permitted to grant a D Variance based on the perceived increase of ratable. They can, however, consider the impact of the proposed operations on the surrounding neighbors. It will have a negative impact. The property values of the adjacent campgrounds will go down overnight but the ratable impact will take longer.

Who wants to vacation or go camping next to an industrial site that wakes you up at 6:30 a.m. Monday through Friday?

There is obviously no benefit to the township from Pierson proposal, but it could be better. Mr. Pierson has the ability to open up a business that is a permitted use, one where he does not need a variance, one that would create jobs and one that is needed in this area: Farm machinery sales, part, rental and service. It is number two on the permitted uses list. Mr. Pierson owns all of the John Deere Dealerships in southern New Jersey.

Currently the closest farm tractor dealership for parts and service is a two-hour round trip.

Do you know what all these farmers (including the new vineyards) have in common? They all have John Deere equipment. So why are you waiting Mr. Pierson? Please build us a dealership with a parts and service department and we will come.

Alma W. George

Ocean View

Editor’s Note: Alma W. George is a member of the Dennis Township Environmental Commission, but said her letter represents only her personal opinion and was not a statement from the commission.

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