Despite opposition from some adjacent landowners, Douglas County commissioners on Wednesday said they intend to grant a permit allowing a change of ownership at a rock quarry.
The conditional use permit, however, will require a review after three years to determine whether the quarry is in compliance with county requirements.
Formal approval won't come until Monday morning's meeting when the permit allowing operation of Big Springs Rock Quarry is placed on the consent agenda. Commissioners said they wanted the county counselor to make sure conditions of the permit can be changed to allow the three-year review and for landscape screening requirement changes.
Operation of the quarry is being transferred from Martin Marietta Materials to Mid-States Materials of Topeka. Martin Marietta opened the quarry on North 1700 Road south of Big Springs in 1990. Commissioners at that time granted a 30-year-permit that was to be reviewed in the event of ownership change.
Bart Christian, owner of Lone Elm properties adjacent to the quarry, and his attorney, Chris Reed, asked that the permit not be granted until Martin Marietta brought the quarry into compliance with the original permit's requirements.
"I want this to go back to the planning board. The system is not working," Christian said.
Reed outlined several compliance concerns, including the lack of trees and a water-filled pit that he said has not adequately been "reclaimed" according to requirements.
Christian also has a federal lawsuit pending against Martin Marietta over water discharge from the quarry that he says has carried debris and mine waste onto his property.
Dave Henry, who also owns property by the quarry, complained about the lack of trees and berms he said Martin Marietta was required to have.
"The trees and the berms are not there. Please help us get that accomplished," Henry said to commissioners.
County zoning and codes director Keith Dabney said he found Martin Marietta to be "substantially in compliance" with the permit requirements except for the number of trees planted.
Commissioners in the early 1990s set a requirement that about 1,800 trees be planted. Only 165 trees remain, Dabney said. Martin Marietta's attorneys say many of the trees died. The type of trees required were not hardy enough to stand up to an environment that included dust and area pesticide use.
A new landscaping plan that includes the planting of about 160 hardier trees such as Australian pine and hackberry trees has been submitted and would be included as a condition in the new permit.
The initial tree requirement was probably "a bad plan, though well intended," Commissioner Bob Johnson said.
Commissioner Charles Jones said he would prefer that Martin Marietta or Mid-States plant more trees, although he said he had no idea what an adequate number would be.
Commissioner Jere McElhaney noted that the permit had already been unanimously approved by the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission and that approval was recommended by county planning staff.
"I have confidence in our staff," he said.
Eric Bettis, a representative for Mid-States, said the firm would respond to county and neighbor concerns.