Neighbors say noise, dust and lights already make the gravel pit a nuisance.
A request by Midwest Asphalt Corp. for permission to extend the hours it hauls material to and from its Lakeville gravel mining site has touched off a protest by area residents, who say the move would worsen their already unpleasant living conditions.
The City Council recently decided to hold off on the request until the company could have a special meeting with neighbors whose homes are north of the gravel pit, across Lake Marion. Residents’ objections focus on noise, dust and harsh lighting from the 60-acre gravel pit.
“We know some neighbors are opposed, and the hope is that they have a chance to discuss the request [with Midwest],” City Administrator Steve Mielke said before last Tuesday’s neighborhood meeting.
About 25 residents showed up for the meeting, voicing concerns similar to those they have previously made in phone calls and e-mails to city officials and at an August meeting of the Planning Commission. The commission approved Midwest’s request on a split vote with several conditions.
Since 2011, Midwest has had permission to excavate gravel and conduct other operations from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday, on the site northeast of Kenrick Avenue and 195th Street. The only limitation is on rock-crushing, which can’t be done on Saturday.
The company is seeking the change now to allow it to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The extra hours would be used only for hauling gravel and sand out of the property and for bringing in what the company calls “fill material” — gravel, sand, compactible clay and concrete — from demolition sites.
Midwest recycles and sells concrete but dumps the other fill material into tapped-out areas of the pit as part of an ongoing restoration project. The goal is to gradually fill in all the excavated areas, making the site useful for some other type of development in the future.
Midwest President Blair Bury told the commission and residents at the neighborhood meeting that the added hours are needed so the company can compete for road construction projects.
“I know we don’t make everybody happy,” Bury said. But he said the company already had taken several steps to reduce noise, dust and lighting to minimize impact on the surrounding area.
Area opponents say the company’s efforts have been inadequate. “At exactly 7 a.m., the tailgates bang to signal the beginning of another day of misery,” said John Osborne of the dump trucks moving in and out of the site. He and others said the noise sweeps over Lake Marion to their homes.
Bury told residents at the neighborhood meeting that a Midwest manager recently went out on the lake in a fishing boat “to hear what you hear.” Bury said that the company concluded the lake surface magnifies sound from the pit and that it already has made some changes to limit noise. He said the company will strengthen restrictions on things like banging dump truck tailgates, telling truck operators they could be barred from the site if they break the rules.
“I can’t tell you it will never happen, but we have had success with that at our other locations,” he said.
Residents at the meeting said it makes no sense for the city to allow any noise from round-the-clock operations by Midwest while it restricts hours for other activities, like lawn mowing and boating on the lake.
Much of their anger was directed at city officials who attended the meeting. “What in the world do you think you’re getting out of this, other than trying to be nice to one business?” said Evan Easton.
Tom Bachinski, who has lived in the area for more than 20 years, was one of several neighbors who said dust from the gravel site drifts into the lake and across it into back yards and homes. “You wouldn’t vote for [the extended hours] in your neighborhood,” he told the planning commission. “… So don’t vote for it in our neighborhood.”
Bachinski and other residents were skeptical of claims by the company that the extended hours could eventually make things better for them by shortening the life of the pit and accelerating its restoration. Midwest’s current permit runs until 2021, but its agreement with the city doesn’t include any requirement that the restoration project be done by then.
Planning director Daryl Morey told residents he would pass on all their comments to city officials. He said he expects the council to consider Midwest’s request for extended hours in October.