Douglass (Mont.) seeks court order to stop Mountain Mulch in Sassamansville

Mountain Mulch Co. in Sassamansville is the subject of an injunction that seeks to temporarily close the business until it is in compliance with rules and regulations. (Photo by Kevin Hoffman, The Mercury)
Smoke rises off a mulch mound at Mountain Mulch in Douglass (Mont.) Township. (Photo by Frank Otto/The Mercury)

DOUGLASS (Mont.) — Township officials have filed a request for an injunction, asking a judge to stop work at a controversial mulching operation in Sassamansville until the site can be brought into compliance with rules and regulations.

Filed on Nov. 22 by Robert Brant, a Collegeville attorney hired by the supervisors to assist in dealing with the issue, the injunction argues that Mountain Mulch, at 244 Sassamansville Road, is in violation of the conditions of a zoning decision that permitted the operation on seven acres of preserved farmland.

Specifically, the township has asked the court to issue an injunction to prevent further activity at the site “until the property and the Mountain Mulch operation are brought into compliance with the decision and the order of the zoning hearing board dated May 8, 2012, and all applicable township, state and federal rules and regulations, codes and ordinances.”

The operation there has been a source of irritation for neighbors, who have complained about the increased truck traffic at the site, the fact that it has exceeded the size limitations placed upon it by the zoning board, and because it exists on more than 50 acres of farmland preserved by Montgomery County and the state, it seems counter to the idea of farmland preservation.

They have even used a local website — sassamansvilletoday.com — to make their case and air their grievances.

For more than a year, they have also aired those grievances to county officials, local officials and the board of supervisors, with varying degrees of success.

Opposition to the operation heated up last month when one of the mulch piles caught fire.

In the wake of that fire, the board of supervisors indicated that not only would they pursue the injunction and zoning violation notices, but also that they would seek the operation’s ultimate closure.

“Enough is enough, I want them out of there,” Supervisor Anthony Kuklinski said at the Nov. 4 supervisors meeting.

The Nov. 22 injunction appears to be another chapter in what may be a prolonged fight between the township and Mountain Mulch.

Nathan Fox, a Bucks County attorney representing Mountain Mulch, did not return calls last Thursday seeking comment.

According to the injunction, Mountain Mulch is violating several provisions of its zoning permit, primarily that the mulch operation be limited to 7.5 acres, that the hours of operation be limited, and that an emergency fire plan be developed in consultation with township fire officials.

Instead of limiting its operations to 7.5 acres, it has expanded to more than 13 acres, the injunction asserts.

Although business hours are limited by the zoning permit from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., activity has expanded beyond this time frame, particularly in terms of truck traffic, the injunction asserts.

Brant said a hearing on the injunction has been scheduled for January.

If successful, the injunction would not shut Mountain Mulch down permanently, but would only stop operations until the business is brought into compliance with the zoning permit conditions.

Follow Evan Brandt on Twitter @PottstownNews