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Archive for Tuesday, July 17, 2007

New quarry owners get approval for permit

July 17, 2007

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County Commission avoids tax increases; approves conditional use permit for local quarry

County Commissioners were able to balance their budget based on no increase in sales tax revenue. Commissioners also approved a conditional use permit that will allow Big Springs Quarry to continue operations under a new owner. Enlarge video

On a 2-1 vote, Douglas County commissioners Monday approved a conditional-use permit that allows Big Springs Quarry to operate under a new owner.

Commissioners Bob Johnson and Jere McElhaney voted for the permit for Mid-States Materials of Topeka while Commissioner Charles Jones voted against it.

Jones said the original owner, Martin Marietta Materials, didn't live up to conditions of a permit that commissioners issued in 1990.

During a meeting last week, some people who own land adjacent to the quarry in northwestern Douglas County said Martin Marietta had not followed requirements concerning the planting of trees and other landscaping issues.

"If somebody has a (permit) they have an obligation to make a good-faith effort to comply and be a good neighbor, and I think Martin Marietta failed on both counts," Jones said Monday.

Martin Marietta representatives insisted last week they did try to follow permit conditions.

Jones also was unhappy that a court reporter - working on Martin Marietta's behalf - was at last week's meeting. Martin Marietta is being sued in federal court by an adjacent landowner who spoke at the meeting. Jones said the reporter's presence may have intimidated other people who wanted to speak.

"We really try hard to create an atmosphere in which people feel comfortable getting up and talking to us, and I thought that his presence sort of flew in the face of that," Jones said.

Tom Murray, an attorney with Lathrop & Gage, which represents Martin Marietta, said it is standard practice for a party in litigation to have a court reporter present when an opposing party speaks at a public meeting.

"This occurs frequently in these kinds of situations, and as far as anyone being intimidated, I was present at the hearing, and having heard those who spoke, it certainly seemed to me that they were anything but intimidated," Murray said.

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