By Matthew Sockol
MILLSTONE – The operator of a Millstone Township asphalt plant is attempting to extend the plant’s hours of operation amid concerns from residents who live near the business.
The Stavola Asphalt Company, Old Bergen Mills Road, is seeking approval from the Zoning Board of Adjustment to extend its hours as part of a process to modify its plant. Representatives of the company appeared before the board on March 23. Attorney Bill Mehr presented the firm’s application.
No decision on the company’s request was made that evening and the hearing is expected to continue on April 27.
There is a potential conflict concerning the zoning board’s authority to approve a modification to Stavola’s development agreement with the municipality.
As Mehr explained in his overview of the application, the original application to build the asphalt plant was filed with the Township Committee in 1971. At that time there was no zoning board in Millstone.
“I am not comfortable saying we have the absolute authority to modify an agreement the township has entered into with the developer,” said the board’s attorney, Gregory W. Vella.
Mehr said he believes the zoning board has the jurisdiction to approve a modification to the hours of operation because the original site plan is being changed.
The original agreement between the township and Stavola states that the plant may be operated between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and between 6 a.m. and noon on Saturday.
Company officials did not specify the extended hours for which they are seeking approval.
Mehr called on Thomas Branch, the company’s vice president, to discuss the application.
“Our intent in being here tonight is to gain the necessary approvals to operate at night and to relocate and install a new driveway on old Route 33, if we get that approval,” Branch said.
He said the company is requesting an extension of its hours of operation because road paving is generally done at night.
“Stavola wants to compete for (paving) projects which require the plant to operate at night,” Branch said. “We can’t make asphalt during the day, hold it over and use it at night. It has to be made within a certain period before it gets placed on (a) highway.”
He said the asphalt plant would not be increasing in size.
“The plant has remained the same size and capacity since it was initially constructed and there are no plans to change that,” Branch said. “This is purely an interest in creating a new entrance to the site and also to provide additional screening and buffering from the neighborhood where we are located.”
According to the application, the proposed driveway will connect the Stavola plant to old Route 33, which runs parallel to the “new” Route 33. In the original agreement, the only access to the site was from Old Bergen Mills Road.
Branch said using old Route 33 as an entrance would eliminate truck traffic on local roads.
When members of the public were given an opportunity to comment on the application, Dorothy Sluzas, of Arrowhead Way, mentioned noise issues she had with the plant.
“I was home last summer for several months and there was a lot of noise,” Sluzas said. “I heard a lot of truck banging, a lot of noise from the machinery, and that kind of noise cannot be controlled.”
While Sluzas thanked Branch for keeping in contact with her and trying to control noise from the trucks, she said the noise would continue to occur.
Sluzas spoke about living in a residential area that is near an asphalt plant.
“It’s hard enough to live with it in the daytime and we have to accept it,” she said. “We don’t have to accept it at night, we don’t have to accept in on weekends. I am going to hear it in the middle of the night, I am going to smell it, I am going to know about it.”
Jim Whitney, of Indian Path, voiced concerns he has about trucks transporting asphalt on old Route 33 and the odor emanating from the plant. He expressed concern about materials running off the company’s trucks, specifically from old Route 33 to the nearby Millstone River.
“On occasion, I have witnessed plumes of smoke coming from the plant and if the wind is blowing northeast, I can smell it from my house,” he said. “It doesn’t happen often, but over my 18-plus years living here, I have witnessed it.”
Richard McDonald of Bergen Mills Road expressed concern about the possible environmental impact of the plant and how additional hours of operation could impact his quality of life.
“I grew up in Woodbridge and I moved to Millstone because I used to live next to the Garden State Parkway,” he said. “If I wanted to hear something run all the time, I wouldn’t have moved here.”
Edward DiFiglia, a municipal policy specialist with the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association, spoke about the Millstone River near the Stavola plant. He said that area of the river is impaired by phosphorus, arsenic and E. coli. He said the state is working to address the E. coli in the river.
He said New Jersey is obligated under anti-degradation policies from the Clean Water Act to improve the quality of water.
“When we are looking into a development like this, we have an obligation under storm water management rules to reduce the pollutants that run off from any developments into the river,” DiFiglia said.
Mehr said storm water basins are being proposed to collect and process water, but DiFiglia continued to express concern about the situation.
“The storm water basins are structural storm water elements,” DiFiglia said. “The township’s ordinance requires non-structural mechanisms to be put in place first and I did not see any mechanical treatment devices on the proposed plan.”