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Bedminster quarry zoning designation now conditional use


In a pre-emptive move that was noted as not related to any particular development application, Bedminster Township has changed its permitted extractive operation use, such as a quarry, in its Industrial Zoning District, to a conditional use.

The supervisors also added “asphalt/ready mix concrete plant” as a conditional use there. The move was made as approval of an amendment to the township zoning ordinance, which had been advertised in January and also earlier this month, at the Feb. 13 public board of supervisors meeting, following a hearing and discussion.

In introducing the amendment proposal, Township Manager Rich Schilling said that the matter originated from a routine query last July from “a Realtor asking what uses were permitted in the township’s industrial district,” which Schilling said prompted him to take a look at what was presently stated in that regard in the township’s voluminous zoning ordinance.

“We found the regulations were antiquated, and in need of being brought up to date,” he said. “An extractive operation such as a quarry was listed as a permitted use, but changing it to a conditional use requires any proposal application to go through formal review by both the township’s planning commission and board of supervisors, toward proving it would not cause harm to the vicinity or the township as a whole.”

“Adding an asphalt or concrete plant, which often accompanies an extractive operation, as a particular use is designed to protect the township against a possible claim of right to build one in another zoning district, and making it a conditional use provides for the same protections as for the extractive operation.”

Also at the Feb. 13 meeting, supervisors approved the purchase of a drone for operation by its police department’s two licensed pilots. A low bid of $15,000 covered a 2 foot x 2 foot unit with daylight camera and forward-looking infrared, and the option to add a second camera later.

The department had previously relied on a unit owned by one of the pilots, which presented liability issues, and also could only offer a half-hour of run time, vs. the 16 hours offered by the new one.

Officials noted that use of the drone for any search of private property would require a search warrant, and that its primary use was for assisting in traffic accident reconstruction. The latter need has taken on increased importance with new county District Attorney regulations calling for reconstruction of any accident involving serious injuries. The unit cannot be weaponized, nor can it be used for deliveries.

The infrared feature allows for helping to find individuals through their heat signatures, as occurred a couple of years ago with three runaways from Georgia lost in the woods in mid-winter, and not dressed for the occasion.

One of the township’s pilots is also licensed for night flight. The unit will be available for help with requests from neighboring townships, as well as those who are among the 14 fellow members of the Central Bucks part of the county’s Special Emergency Response Team (SERT).