In our community, it is a pretty fortunate thing to live across from a farm.
Watching the sun rise and set over crop fields, the summer corn slowly emerge from the ground until it forms row after row of small golden trees, and the occasional tractor rolling across the landscape—all of it a connection to Pine Township’s earlier days.
But when that farm has been transformed into a commercial dumping ground and “waste area,” it quickly loses its idyllic luster.
So is the situation that presents itself to Pine Township residents whose houses sit across from Wexford Farms at the corner of Pearce Mill Road and the Red Belt.
Some might say this dump is only a problem for those of us who live near the farm—the ones who, for nearly three years now, have had to tolerate the repeated explosive bangs of dump truck doors; the vibration from the compacting of pieces of highway rattling our houses; the incessant rumbling of trucks up and down Pearce Mill Road and the Red Belt; the incessant beeping of trucks seemingly always in reverse; and the dust blanketing our patio furniture, windows and decks.
Imagine spring and summers in your backyard with this constant industrial racket as background music.
But the existence of this commercial dump—or “waste area for roadway construction projects,” which is how it’s described on several project documents related to its operation—should concern all township residents.
We doubt many of you who drive by Wexford Farms relish the view: piles of asphalt, lines of construction vehicles, mounds of cement rubble, and lovely jersey barriers. It has become an industrial complex.
This waste area is now part of your community, and if the township has its way, it may be for years to come.
Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of this situation—beyond the banging and vibrations and dust and industrial-like scenery—is that the existence of a commercial dump and waste area unquestionably violates the township’s own rules and regulations, the township Code. And the frustration is only compounded by the township’s continued resolve to ensure that it continues unabated and unquestioned, without any consideration of the code.
The code is very explicit about what kind of activities and structures are and aren’t allowed in the Township’s various zoning district. In the zoning district where Wexford Farms sits (called Estate Residential or E-1)—directly in the middle of residential neighborhoods—a “waste area for roadway construction projects” is not listed among them.
And in cases where a property owner, organization, or company wants to do something not specifically allowed in the code, they can apply for a variance, or obtain a temporary or conditional use. But a “waste area for roadway construction projects” doesn’t pass muster for those options either.
This dump and waste area, operated by the large commercial contractor Joseph B. Fay Co., has been allowed to exist for the past three years via a bureaucratic sleight of hand: under the cloak of a grading permit. The township zoning officer and Board of Supervisors contend that this dump and waste area is just grading, which is typically defined as moving dirt around to make a property amenable for some other use.
It’s never been explained, however, why a grading project would involve the stockpiling of mountains of broken up chunks of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, jersey barriers, and asphalt piles; or why it would require armies of trucks hauling in roadway debris, including rebar and big hunks of metal and plastic. This is not the kind of fertile soil one associates with growing tomatoes and zucchini, at least not any we’d like to eat!
And to those of us who have been following this situation closely and who for months have urged the township to make this dumping stop, it’s unclear why, after three years, this alleged grading still isn’t completed.
On February 20, the township received a new grading permit application to continue this activity at Wexford Farms for another year. That brings the project to a total of four years. Why does it take four years to grade a few acres?
Consider that the entire Wexford Medical Mall recently approved by the township’s Board of Supervisors, a huge complex that will have state-of-the-art medical facilities, will be entirely built and completed—grading and all—in 18 months.
And when this new permit expires, will another permit be approved?
There has been no required completion date for this project, nor has the Township shown any inclination to require one (the code speaks to that as well). Given the amount of PennDOT roadwork in Pine Township and the surrounding area, the site could continue to serve as a prime waste and storage area for the contractor’s use.
It has been intimated that even bridge reconstruction debris from Adams Township (yes, another township) will be placed at Wexford Farms.
Concerned Residents of Pine has argued that the activity at Wexford Farms is not simply grading, and as such requires zoning approval by the township’s Zoning Hearing Board.
With this, our case will be heard at a public hearing with the Zoning Hearing Board on Tuesday, February 26, at 7 p.m. at the Pine Community Center. We encourage any and all Pine residents who are concerned about this commercial dump and waste area in the middle of their community to attend this hearing.
To be certain, this is not simply a dispute among property owners. Rather, it’s a call for the township staff and Board of Supervisors to follow and enforce the code, and to act in the best interest of all property owners and taxpayers, not just in those of a large commercial contractor and PennDOT.