Conditional use permits for proposed rock quarries in Pottawatomie County are getting some attention, primarily from local residents uninterested in living too close in proximity.
One of them, requested by Mid-State Materials, would be located on Reves Road, south of Wheaton. But the planning commission recently recommended denying approval.
The Pottawatomie County Board of Commissioners can override that decision with a two-thirds majority on the three seat commission.
Resident Travis Ross is a fourth generation farmer in the area and spoke against the Mid-State Materials request at Monday’s meeting.
“As a resident we are concerned about the gas line by Wheaton, Blaine and Westmoreland, not to mention the water lines that feed some of these residents. Also, some of our biggest concerns are the natural springs. Everyone out there has a well and relies on these waters. The possibility of pollution that will float downstream. All of this is going to go down Rock Creek as this (proposed) quarry is at the head of Rock Creek,” he said.
Resident Natalie Krohn also voiced concerns with quarries interrupting the area, which is primarily used for agricultural purposes.
“How does the character of a rock quarry, with its associated mining and blasting, even come close to the character of native grass growing and cattle raising,” she said.
Commissioner Pat Weixelman aired his grievances with the process and his perception that state statute is too vague on how it enforces compliance.
“Within our county, for this to have any teeth in it, or to make these folks feel like they’re being protected once they entertain this, you’re going to need somebody with a big club going around and making sure this stuff is taken care of and done. If you don’t agree with that, I don’t know what to say. It’s just like having speed limits. If you don’t have a cop enforcing them, how far are they going to take it,” he said.
Without conditions attached, County Planner Stephan Metzger says it can become more difficult to rescind such permits.
Resident Lawrence Ubel urged commissioners to not have the quarries dictating to the county how they operate.
“We need to put some language in here. I encourage you to uphold the decision of the planning board. They’re your people, you vetted them. Their decision was not made lightly. It’s coming, we know it is. Let’s regulate it and make them do business our way in Pottawatomie County and not just sign it off,” he said.
The Mid-State Materials request will come before the county commission on May 23.
The planning commission will also hear a request on May 19 for a proposed rock quarry near White Eagle and Wheaton Roads.
Additionally, some other conditional use permits are close to being considered.
Residents Steven and Deborah Swoyer are requesting a CUP for their land at 9965 Loux Road for the purposes of having a wedding venue and event meeting space near an existing winery. A similar request is being made by Greg Ferkol at 11830 Myers Valley Road for a children’s play area and optional wedding venue, near an existing orchard. Both requests will be in front of the commission on May 16th.
Metzger explained the procedure commissioners must follow when deciding to approve or deny these requests.
“Whatever decision you make, the decision is not based on who the applicant is, it’s not based on an individual proposal. It’s what is the use they are proposing and is that use suitable for the area in which they are proposing,” he said.
Commissioners must consider five key factors — character of neighborhood, zoning and uses of nearby property, possible detrimental effect, the length of time it’s remained vacant as zoned and the relative gain to public safety as a result of denying the request compared to the hardship imposed on the individual landowner. A number of neighboring property owners have protested, including one petition that was deemed valid.
“You three, if you want to approve it, you have to approve it unanimously. If one of you votes against it then the C-U-P is not approved because you need three quarters of the governing body. There’s only three of you, so it has to be unanimous,” he said.
A two-thirds majority is necessary to override a ruling on C-U-P’s by the Planning Commission.
A list of ongoing projects the county is considering can be found here: pottcounty.org.