A concrete-crushing operation at Howard L. Ritter & Sons Inc. off Plantation Road near Lewes has come to a halt, and a conditional-use application to allow it has been withdrawn from the Thursday, June 24 Sussex County Planning and Zoning Commission agenda.
The crushing operation is not a permitted use, and a conditional use and possibly a special-use exception from Sussex County would be required to continue the business.
The withdrawn conditional-use application included expansion of a nonconforming use as a borrow pit to include the processing and crushing of concrete and other aggregates, and the outdoor storage, sale, processing and crushing of mulch and soil.
The company has operated a borrow pit at the 51-acre site adjacent to the Plantations and Henlopen Landing communities for many decades, long before any residential development occurred. In 1997, the company began production of recycled aggregates, recycling concrete and asphalt into recycled concrete, according to a 2015 article in trade magazine Conexpo-Con/Agg.
The operation and application caused several area residents to start a campaign against it, which includes an online petition.
“Ritter Inc. has been operating an unlawful operation without permits or zoning approval for 24 years,” said Stephen Dunne, one of the protest organizers.
Following an April 22 inspection, staff from the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Division of Air Quality contacted the company requesting it voluntarily cease operation of the air-emitting machinery including a crusher, wood chipper and two screeners. “They have been asked to not operate this machinery until such time as the zoning issues are resolved and air-emissions permits are obtained for each of the pieces of equipment,” wrote Joanna French, acting program administrator, in a letter to Dunne.
Sussex County Planning and Zoning Director Jamie Whitehouse confirmed that the company has notified officials that activities on the site have been reduced and concrete crushing has ceased.