Eudora — N.R. Hamm Quarry Inc. wants permission to expand its rock-blasting operation more than 100 acres into an adjacent farm field, but a handful of neighbors are working to stop the quarry in its tracks.
And with Douglas County commissioners scheduled to settle the explosive issue tonight, the debate is raising plenty of questions.
"Why would anybody want a quarry next to them?" said Bob Johnson, commission chairman. "Of course they wouldn't. But in Douglas County we need the benefits of that quarry. Where else would we put it?"
At issue is Hamm's application for a conditional use permit to expand the quarry, now located a mile east and two miles south of Eudora. The 72-acre site runs along the north side of North 1200 Road, with its eastern boundary at the Douglas/Johnson county line.
Hamm officials say they need the extra space -- 129 acres to be leased from property owner Kathryn Neis -- to be able to fill demand for limestone rock used to make concrete and asphalt pavement for road and highway projects.
If approved, the company would expect the added space to meet demands for the next 40 to 50 years.
Dan Watkins, an attorney representing Hamm, describes the quarry as a "periodic use," with trucks moving in and out of the site for four months at a time. The quarry has been in place for more than 40 years but recently has been used only in 1992, 1998 and 1999.
"We have to set aside some reserves of these resources for future generations, or else the future availability and affordability of rock will be prohibitive," Watkins said.
But Adra Burks, an attorney representing nearby resident Arthur Neis, argues that the quarry has no business expanding into what is destined to become a bustling residential area.
More than 500 homes already are planned to be built within two miles of the quarry's proposed expansion, she said, bringing ever more residents closer to the rock-blasting, traffic-generating, safety-jeopardizing operation.
"Eudora's natural growth area is to the south," said Burks, who noted the presence of a high school, new middle school, old middle school and athletics complex at the southern edge of town. "Now we're taking that natural growth from the city of Eudora, and we're blocking it off."
Burks hopes to block the project with a protest petition, filed on behalf of the owners of at least 20 percent of the land surrounding the site. Signing the petitions were Arthur Neis, Robert Miller Jr., Dan Hoover and Stephen Prudden.
With the petition filed,a unanimous vote would be needed to approve the permit.
Tonight's meeting is scheduled to begin at 6:35 at the county courthouse, 1100 Mass.