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Unable to Hit October Deadline, Roxbury Quarry Gets Reluctant Reprieve

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Aerial view of Kowalski Tract sand and gravel mining area near Berkshire Valley Road in Roxbury Credits: Google Earth
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ROXBURY, N.J. – The township is allowing County Concrete Corp. owner John Crimi to take an extra eight months to finish excavating sand and gravel near Berkshire Valley Road, a project that prompted some area residents to complain about noise and dust this summer.

Crimi recently told the Roxbury Mayor and Council he needed the extra time because work at the so-called “Kowalski Tract” was delayed due to the extreme conditions of last winter as well as a spring that was wetter than normal.

“Phase 1” of the excavation, which called for removing 837,000 cubic yards of material, was supposed to take a year and be completed by Oct. 1. But as of Aug. 17, Crimi’s crews had managed to remove only about 305,000 cubic yards.

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“It was the hardest winter we’ve had,” Crimi told the mayor and council. “Then we had the most rainy spring season. So we’ve been working our tails off in there trying to accomplish what I’d promised we would do."

In a letter to the township, Crimi’s lawyer, Edward Dunne of Ledgewood, pointed out his client didn't’secure Roxbury Planning Board approval for Phase 1 until late last year. “The initial approval did not occur until near the beginning of the winter in 2014,” Dunne wrote. “As a result of that and the hardship of the winter, work could not occur on the site from early in January 2015 until near the end of April 2015.

Dunne also pointed out that “the material that was coming from the site did not turn out to be the quality of material that was expected,” asserting it contained a lot of clay which clogged equipment. Because of that, “processing expected to be at the rate of 3,000 tons a day became only 1,500 tons a day,” said Dunne. “Clay and dirt clogs are crushing the plant operations and causing significant processing delays.

Crimi told the town officials he considered asking for a 6-month permit extension but – with winter approaching again – thought it would be more prudent to seek eight more months.

He conceded his operations caused some hardship for people living close to the tract, especially due to dust conditions. Crimi said he first tried to block the dust by having his workers place “filter blankets” over the dirt.

When that didn't’ work “they spent three days building a 6-foot-high boulder wall, a wonderful stone wall,” he said.  However, Crimi said he was directed by Roxbury Township Engineer Michael Kobylarz to remove the wall because it wasn't included in the site plan. “No good deed goes unpunished,” Crimi commented.

“Actually, weeks and weeks went by,” responded Roxbury Councilman Bob DeFillippo. “You created this huge dust problem for these residents. It wasn’t until they complained that you did something about it. I know you’ve been doing this for a long time. It seems to me you would have anticipated that.”

“Sometimes you try things,” said Crimi. He said his crews eventually erected a dirt berm. The structure has been successful in stopping the dust from blowing to nearby houses, but it was described by one resident at the meeting as "very nice, but it still looks like somebody's bald head."

Crimi said the berm will be planted with an indigenous evergreen at the end of September.

The mayor and council eventually decided to grant Crimi the 8-month extension subject to a number of conditions that will be put in writing by township counsel Anthony Bucco.

“What happened here …. is the residents brought this to our attention,” said Roxbury Mayor Jim Rilee. “We were not in the loop. Now we’re in the loop.” 

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