October 2008 – State & Province News
by Therese Dunphy, Editor-in-Chief
A crowd of neighbors outlined their concerns regarding a proposed quarry in Mayflower. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that Mayflower Aggregates LLC leased about 66 acres of land near Easterwood Mountain and plans to begin operations on 12.5 of those acres. Neighbors of the property said they are concerned about blasting, noise, and water impacts. Kenneth George, one of the developers, said he has offered to assist the water company to extend waterlines to people in case they lose their well water. He also explained that blasting operations will not cause structural damage to their properties. According to the newspaper, most Arkansas mining operations are required to obtain a permit from the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, but state law specifically exempts quarries from the permitting process. Rather, the law requires that a quarry operator file a notice of intent to quarry, notify the public about the intent to quarry, and hold a meeting if there are more than five requests from the public.
Former aggregates operations may hold the key to keeping spring training in Southern Arizona. According to the Arizona Daily Star, a local developer is proposing to redevelop two Marana-area gravel pits into a mixed-use development that would include a two-team baseball stadium and a 16-field practice facility. A resort hotel and an 18-hole golf course built into a pit currently operated by CPC Southwest Materials Inc. are also part of developer David Graham’s vision for the area. The proposal is one facet of a regional effort to keep spring-training baseball in the area. In 2006, the Chicago White Sox announced the team’s intention to break its lease at Tucson Electric Park. In April, the Pima County Board of Supervisors approved the formation of the Pima County Sports and Tourism Authority. The group, made of local business and community leaders, is searching for ways to keep the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies from departing the area.
Going against the wishes of the Fresno County Planning Commission and many area residents, Fresno County supervisors approved a 315-acre gravel mine near Kings River. The Fresno Bee reports that supervisors voted 3-2 for the project, and Calaveras Materials can finally move forward with a project it originally proposed 12 years ago. The vote, which had been put off twice, came after more than three hours of discussion in front of a crowd of about 50 community residents. During the meeting, the main issues discussed included truck traffic and loss of farmland. County staffers recommended that Calaveras preserve the same amount of land it will use for the mine, making the requirement the most farmland ever set aside in the county to offset loss to development. The board increased the staff’s recommendation. Calaveras Vice President Burt Gilpin said the requirement may end up killing the project, but said the company will work with conservationists to try to meet it.
A man who drove a dump truck into a train walked away from the accident with his life, and a $75 ticket. According to the Lewiston Morning Tribune, 45-year-old Jerry Sartin didn’t look both ways before crossing train tracks in Twin Falls. After the dump truck was hit by the train – which was traveling at approximately 20 miles per hour – Sartin was treated and released for minor injuries at a Twin Falls hospital.
At Aggregates Manager’s press time, a final ruling was expected from the Windham Town Council regarding a proposed quarry on Nash Road. According to the Lakes Region Weekly, the council has spent numerous hours reviewing criteria pertaining to the permit request, but finally committed to a date for a decision. Windham developer Peter Busque has requested a 55-acre quarry on a 160-acre property. Although an earlier permit request was denied, Busque scaled back the request. At issue is whether or not trucks could be loaded and travel in and out of the site during winter months. Busque agreed to limit drilling, blasting, and crushing to a May 1 to Oct. 31 timeframe, but said he expects to be able to sale material during winter months as well. Neighbors and at least one town councilor told the newspaper that they believed loaders and trucks are part of operations and should be prohibited during the winter.
Pacella Development Corp. successfully fought a cease-and-desist order issued by the Westford zoning board. According to Lawyers Weekly, the board upheld a building commissioner’s order requiring Pacella to stop all quarrying at its site, but the order was deemed unreasonable and subsequently annulled. In his comments, the judge stated that, although the producer had “substantially changed or expanded the property’s prior non-conforming use,” it was only the expansion that was subject to a later zoning law, not the non-conforming use itself. He also said that according to expert witness testimony, the site had been used for quarrying in its entirety in 1985, prior to the newer zoning law. “I found, as a fact, and now rule, as a matter of law, that Pacella has ‘actually occupied’ the entire property in a manner consistent with its intended use prior to the zoning change,” he said, “and as such, Pacella may continue to use the entire property for quarrying.”
The Texas Township Planning Commission granted a permit to Aggregate Resources Inc. to expand its gravel mining as long as it addresses environmental concerns and meets permit conditions pertaining to setbacks, berms, landscaping, and hours of operation. The Kalamazoo Gazette reports that the permit will allow the company to expand existing operations in Prairie Ronde Township as it extracts gravel in the neighboring Texas Township and sends it via conveyor to its current processing plant in Prairie Ronde. For the last six months, the request spurred discussion and debate, particularly with regard to environmental concerns and the protection of a rare butterfly in the area.
The Benton County Planning Commission approved a permit for a long-anticipated granite mine in late August, the St. Cloud Times reports. Martin Bauerly applied for a conditional use permit for a mine on 136 acres of a 380-acre property in Granite Ledge Township. Officials with the company estimate the site’s reserves to be sufficient for 50 years of mining. The commission approved a five-year permit that includes restrictions on screening the site, maintaining 300-foot setbacks from existing homes and businesses, dust controls, noise monitoring, limited hours of blasting, and reclamation. The site still needs to acquire a mining permit from the township before commencing operations.
The state’s permitting quagmire continues, as developer Ken Allen recently learned. According to The Billings Gazette, Allen hoped to lease his 100-acre parcel to Knife River Corp. so that it could mine material for local road projects. The company and land owner waited to hear back from the state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) regarding its permit request. While they waited, neighbors appealed to the county for an emergency zone change to classify the land as residential. That request was denied because the county commissioners said they felt the DEQ would study the request and ensure the company would be a good neighbor. When the DEQ failed to issue the permit according to required timeline and as the project was set to begin, Knife River sued DEQ. Citizens again asked the county commission to rezone the property, and their request was granted because, as a commissioner told the newspaper, she understood the concerns of neighbors since the operation would move forward without review. In the meantime, Knife River invested $100,000 in a site that is, at least temporarily, zoned residential.
Raymond town officials have appointed the remaining members of a committee charged with the task of advising the town on its options regarding a controversial quarry on Route 27. The Union Leader reports voters had approved a warrant article calling for the town to establish a committee “to investigate the potential acquisition” of a site owned by Londonderry-based Thibeault Corp. The local select board, conservation commission, and town officials appointed members of the committee. Last year, the producer initiated a plan to permit a quarry on its 351-acre site. When its proposal generated concerns, Thibeault leaders sent town officials a letter indicating that they’d be open to selling the property. The value of the land, including stone and property, is more than $28 million.
Troy Sand & Gravel donated materials for improvements to the playground and recreational facilities at the Poestenkill Elementary School, the Times Union reports. It provided concrete delivery to the school to help parents and volunteers as they constructed a new walkway leading from the back of the building to the playground. “Kids will be playing on this playground for years to come, and it was inspiring to see how everyone came together to make this project a reality,” Tom Clemente, vice president of Troy Sand and Gravel, told the newspaper. The school project was the company’s second altruistic project this year. In the spring, it donated crushed stone and other materials for the improvement of a parking lot near the local Little League fields.
At a meeting in early September, Sequoyah County Commissioners asked the staff in the county clerk’s office to check records and make sure that Arkola Sand and Gravel has been paid. The company has refused to sell materials to the county twice, www.sequoyahcountytimes.com reports. A commissioner said he spoke with staff at the company and was told that three county districts owned Arkola more than $6,500 in total. He then asked the county clerk staff to straighten out the problem and pay the bill so that the county can purchase road materials. In the interim, the county has been paying another producer a premium for transporting material into the county.
High fuel prices and a downturn in construction led to layoffs at Eugene Sand & Gravel, Egge Sand & Gravel, and Bandon Concrete, part of Oldcastle Materials. A dozen workers, ranging from mechanics to key managers, were laid off, according to The Register Guard. Eugene Sand and Egge Sand now have about 275 workers, down from the typical seasonal peak of 400. “We would not have done anything like this had we thought this was a one-year event,” K.C. Klosterman, president of Eugene Sand & Gravel, told the newspaper. “We’re seeing this lasting two, if not three, years before the economy turns around.” He noted that the group’s business is down 40 percent from the same time last year.
A group of Bullskin residents attended a supervisors meeting asking for their help in preventing a rumored quarry from being developed in their neighborhood. According to the Daily Courier, the residents asked supervisors if any ordinances existed that could prevent the development. The chairman of the board of supervisors said they would work with citizens to review local ordinances. The citizens also inquired about the permit process and asked supervisors to put 10-ton weight limits on bordering roads.
State and local transportation officials told the Florence Morning News that rising asphalt costs could contribute to a funding shortfall for six Florence County road projects. “We’re just trying to upkeep what we’ve got to the best of our ability,” Sherwin Welch, chairman of the Florence County Transportation Committee, told the newspaper. He added that the group has not been able to pave any of the county’s many remaining gravel roads since 1995. The South Carolina Department of Transportation estimates that asphalt costs, which have risen about 20 percent in the last year, impact how many of the six projects collectively known as the Florence County Forward Project will be completed. The projects are being funded through a one-cent sales tax, passed through a referendum in May 2007. That tax is projected to collect $148 million, with another $250 million approved by the State Infrastructure Board’s evaluation committee. The estimated cost of the six projects is $609 million.
The Concrete Industry Management (CIM) program – a business-intensive program that awards students with a four-year bachelor’s degree in concrete industry management – announced the addition of CIM to the curriculum of Texas State University, beginning in spring 2009. The university will join four other schools including Middle Tennessee State University, Arizona State University, the New Jersey Institute of Technology, and California State University, Chico, in offering the program. “The industry is growing at a rapid pace, so the need for professionals devoted to the concrete industry is critical,” said David L. Vickers, interim executive director of the CIM National Steering Committee.
Vulcan Materials Co.’s request to moor barges in James River has some local citizens reacting badly. According to the Times-Dispatch, Vulcan applied to the Virginia Marine Resources Commission and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to set up a mooring site near two historic plantations. Local residents, including the plantation owners, expressed concern over the proposed site, and the Charles City County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution objecting to the proposed location, citing concerns that barge traffic would harm the area’s recreational, educational, and natural resources. Tom Carroll, a spokesman for Vulcan, told the newspaper that it undertook a comprehensive review of five or six sites and found the proposed location to be the one that is most practical, based on considerations such as cost, safety, and environmental impact. He also noted that moving products by barge cuts down considerably on area truck traffic and said the company intends to maintain its environmentally friendly track record.
Nearly 150 people attended a community meeting in Edmonton to voice concerns about the impact of a proposed gravel pit. According to the Edmonton Journal, Yellowhead Aggregates has proposed mining a 7.8-square-kilometer gravel pit near the town of Onoway. The company’s general manager, Marlea Sleeman, told meeting attendees that it could mine only where reserves are located. She added that the area was chosen, in part, because it was already zoned as a potential gravel pit. The company’s proposal is for a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week operation. At that rate, mining would be completed in about six years and the site would be reclaimed as farmland. Despite protests, the council refused a request to extend the proposal period in order to give community members time to hire their own environmental consultant.