HomeExaminerExaminer NewsAsphalt company makes case for expanded hours

Asphalt company makes case for expanded hours

By Matthew Sockol
Staff Writer

MILLSTONE – The operator of a Millstone Township asphalt plant is attempting to extend the plant’s hours of operation amid concerns of how it would impact 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 made their second appearance before the board on April 27, following an appearance on March 23. Attorney Bill Mehr presented the firm’s application.

The hearing is expected to continue at the board’s June 22 meeting.

The board’s attorney, Gregory W. Vella, said the panel does not have the authority to approve a modification to the hours of operation as outlined in Stavola’s development agreement with the municipality.

The original application to build the asphalt plant was filed with the Township Committee in the early 1970s. At that time, there was no zoning board in Millstone.

“It is the position of the township and the position of myself as the attorney of the zoning board that there is a valid agreement between the township and the property owner, which has carried over to the present owner, that only the township can modify,” Vella said.

He informed the board members that if they approved the Stavola application, it would be with the understanding that the Township Committee would change the hours.

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 Saturday.

After a discussion with the board, Stavola Vice President Thomas Branch requested that the hours of operation to be extended to 1 a.m., although he did not specify what days he was speaking about. The comment about the extended hours was made in regard to how long the plant would be running to manufacture asphalt. According to Branch, the trucks distributing the asphalt would be operational until 4 a.m.

In response, board Chairman Michael Novellino said the panel’s members have to decide if a distinction between manufacturing and distribution in the application was reasonable.

Branch previously testified that the company is requesting an extension of its hours of operation because road paving is generally done at night.

According to Branch, the plant has four silos that have a capacity of 200 tons, providing the plant with a total of 800 tons of hot-mix asphalt. The plant has a manufacturing rate of 300 tons an hour.

The average job is between 1,200 and 1,500 tons, according to Branch. The vice president said about two hours beyond the regular operational times would be required to manufacture the amount of asphalt needed for such a job.

“The amount of material that is required by a job each night is really dictated by the time we have to place it in those hours,” he said.

Peter Strong of Crest Engineering spoke about proposed berms that would help contain the noise generated by the plant if the hours were extended. According to Strong, between 55,000 and 60,000 cubic yards of materials would be needed to construct the berms.

Edward Potenta, a noise and air quality specialist with Potenta Environmental Consultants, spoke about the environmental impact the plant would have if it operated at night. Potenta was hired by Stavola to look at the existing plant operations and determine what sound levels would be generated by nighttime operations.

According to Potenta, state regulations dictate that the maximum sound level that facilities should generate at adjoining properties at night is 50 decibels, which is the equivalent of a conversation being whispered.

In a report dated Oct. 5, 2015, Potenta projected that the noise generated by the plant at 11 nearby residences would be below 50 decibels. The proposed berms were factored into the projection.

He acknowledged the sound would be noticeable, but said it would not have an impact on residents in regard to sleep or use of their property.

For the noise generated by truck tailgates, Potenta said the state standard is 80 decibels. With the berms factored in, he projected the tailgate noise levels would range from 35 to 43 decibels at neighboring residential properties.

In regard to whether the extension of operating hours would have an impact on air quality, Potenta testified it would not and he made note of the effectiveness of the plant’s baghouse, which is intended to control air pollution.

He added that even with night operations, the plant would continue to operate under a 2,000-hour limit that is required to be in compliance with air quality standards. According to Potenta, the plant has operated mostly between 1,000 and 1,100 hours per year in the past five years. The lowest annual amount was 961 hours and in 2015, the plant’s total hours of operation were 1,239.

When members of the public were given an opportunity to comment on the application, Sean Kilcomons of Winding Creek Drive spoke favorably of Stavola. He praised Branch’s responsiveness to calls and the company for addressing issues that arise, in addition to helping clean his neighborhood with a street sweeper.

Kilcomons added that the plant operated at night with permission from the township about eight years ago and did not cause any noticeable sound issues.

“I went to sleep that night and didn’t even hear it,” he said. “And it was during the summer and the windows were open.”

Resident Dorothy Sluzas of Arrowhead Way voiced her objection to the application. Sluzas also praised Branch for his responsiveness and his efforts to address issues that arise in the area, but she expressed concern about how extended hours would impact her home and other nearby residences.

“There are so many variables you are talking about here,” Sluzas said. “You are talking about noise, you are talking about smell, you are talking about so many things and any one of them is enough to make our lives more difficult. I accepted that I have to live with (an asphalt plant) during the day, (but) I didn’t buy my house knowing I would have to accept it at night.”

Resident Jim Whitney of Indian Path, who previously voiced concerns about odors emanating from the plant, cited the township’s code book as evidence that he should not be able to smell the plant’s odors.

Reading from the code book, Whitney said, “There shall be no emission of odorous gasses or other odorous matter in such quantities as to be perceptible beyond the property line of the lot occupied by such use.”

At the previous meeting, Whitney said he could occasionally smell the plant’s smoke plumes from his house when the wind was blowing northeast.

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