On the sixth anniversary of the Gibraltar Rock zoning hearing's inception, lawyers representing New Hanover Township and the company seeking to develop a quarry presented their closing statements.Now that the series of hearings known as Gibraltar Rock 1 has concluded, the New Hanover Zoning Hearing Board has 45 days to issue a decision on the Silvi Group's permit application.

"I was going to bring a picture," said Stephen Harris, the company's attorney. "But I figured a few thousand words would suffice."

If approved, the Silvi Group could begin mining soon. Township solicitor Ed Skypala said the company still needs an air-quality permit and final plan approval from the board of supervisors.

Citing expert testimony regarding potential impacts on on traffic, real estate values and the environment as well as wind studies, slope stability and blasting, Harris declared that a quarry covering 210 acres along Route 73 would create no adverse impact on the health, safety and welfare of the community's residents.

"The quarry provides an essential use for our economy," Harris said.

During his 75-minute closing statement, the lawyer told the zoning board that a township's reluctance to offer more services or prevent congestion is an unacceptable reason to deny an exception.

"You can't prevent an exception for a church because of extra traffic on Sunday," Harris said.

However, township attorney Robert Brant argued that an exclusionary exception doesn't apply.

Harris argued that the Silvi Group's petition should be granted for three reasons:ˆ·When the applicant filed initially, the township zoning ordinances illegally precluded mining as reasonable land use;ˆ·The land, which was zoned for heavy industrial use, doesn't provide adequate stone to make mining profitable; and,ˆ·Ifminingisallowed, theSivli Group is entitled to a special exception because it has promised to operate within state regulations.

Under the first condition, Harris said, relief would include adoption a

plan approved by the state Department of Environmental Protection.

In 2005, state the Department of Environmental Protection approved a non-coal surface mining permit. An airquality permit is currently before the state agency.

Brant bristled at the proposal, saying that implementation would create an unjust "punishment" for the township's residents.

He argued that the ordinance is constitutional, saying there was no evidence that the mining application was ever removed.

"There is no smoking gun," Brant said.

The defense attorney suggested that the zoning board implement certain conditions such as limiting the hours of operation and the amount of rock crushed, the implementation of berms, resident notification before blasting and monitoring nearby wells.

Hearings on a similar matter, known as Gibraltar Rock 2, will continue May 17.

In January 2003, after the Silvi Group purchased 76 adjacent acres, officials required a new application since zoning ordinances had changed.

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