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Lawrence and Douglas County

Lawrence and Douglas county

Planning commissions recommend denial of sand permit

January 30, 2013

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Both the Eudora and Lawrence-Douglas County planning commissions voted Wednesday to recommend denial of a permit application for Penny's Aggregate to develop a large sand pit mine along the Kansas River.

It will now be up to the Douglas County Commission to make a final decision in a vote tentatively scheduled for Feb. 27.

The Eudora planning group voted 4-0 to deny the permit. The vote on the Lawrence-Douglas County panel was 4-3 for denial.

That represented a reversal for the Lawrence-Douglas County group, which voted narrowly in October to recommended approval of the permit, subject to several conditions. But it was a consistent vote for the Eudora planning group, which has been solidly opposed to the proposal all along.

Although several concerns were raised during the lengthy public hearing, Eudora Planning Commissioner Johnny Stewart summed up the one issue that seemed most important in swaying votes: the choice between developing and marketing the county's natural resources, or protecting its most valuable farm land.

"It seems to be a competition between resources, whether it's land or sand," Stewart said.

Both of those goals are listed as priorities in the county's long range comprehensive plan, known as Horizon 2020.

The proposal called for developing a sand pit on 434 acres near the Kansas River, north of Eudora. It was a rare instance when the application had to go before both planning commissions because the site is in an unincorporated portion of Douglas County, but within the three-mile extraterritorial jurisdiction of Eudora's zoning authority.

Penny's sells the sand for use in concrete mixes and other construction material.

"The big thing for me is the destruction of class 1 and class 2 soils," Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commissioner Clay Britton said. "It's a decision about which resource we want to have available for use."

The proposal has been before the county commission once but had to be sent back to the planning commission because of a technical error in the public notification process. Property owners on the north side the river in Leavenworth County were not notified of the earlier public hearings, even though they live within the 1,000-yard radius where notification is required.

Several Leavenworth County residents came to Wednesday's hearing to express objections to the noise that would be created. They asked for additional conditions to be attached limiting the level of noise and the hours of operation for the pit mine.

Others who testified, including the city of Eudora, raised concerns about the impact the pit mine would have on the stability of the river bank and the potential for groundwater contamination in the event of another major flood on the river.

County commissioners are not bound by the recommendations of either planning commission, but those recommendations often carry considerable weight. Other options discussed by the planning commissions that county commissioners may consider include delaying action until further studies are completed on the potential impact or approving the permit subject to more conditions.

Peter Hancock can be reached at 832-7259, or by email: phancock@ljworld.com.

Comments

irvan moore 1 year, 8 months ago

i'm pretty sure they got this one right

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TheBigW 1 year, 8 months ago

Nope what will happen is the Penney's will call up their buddy Thomas Fritzel and his crew and invite them out for nice lunch at the country club, maybe have drink or two.... pretty sure Doug Compton will be invited along, you know for fun....

Then the Penney's will politely ask how is that j-bird park thing coming along there T and D how are those two new big buildings project you doing there D? And the little reminder that all that cement tons & tons of it they both will need for their projects is about to sky rocket up in price, adding millions to the budgets of those projects.....

Cost a lot of money to truck in Cement from Mo.... Next thing you know Jim Flory's vote is paid for, I mean won...

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TheBigW 1 year, 8 months ago

You may not like it, but it's freedom of speech for one and second, it's a pretty common view in this community of just it works around here and some people get their way, even if it is not done like that.

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docrad1 1 year, 8 months ago

Sounds more like our elected officials once again flushing us and our economy down-the-drain (or selling us "down-the-river").

Penny's needs sand to mix cement. No sand, no Pennys. No Pennys, no jobs, no employees; no employees, no payroll; no payroll, no money into the economy; no money in, more money out from the state to support the unemployed.....sounds like the NEW American way.

No cement from Missouri....just from the newly created monopolistic MCM.

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kansanbygrace 1 year, 8 months ago

There are many places very nearby that have a lot of sand accessible that do not compromise the security of the Kansas River bed, the water table, and the farmland. The roads in this area carry a lot of worker traffic every day and are not at all suitable for the heavy truck traffic to haul this sand. The neighbors' concerns are very real. The proposal is very, very weak concerning mitigation of the increased frailty and collapse of the area.

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Catalano 1 year, 8 months ago

Hi Peter. I know you're getting up to speed on everything, just FYI if you've got the PC gig now: It's Horizon 2020, and will come up a lot at PC meetings. Perhaps the editor's "vision" wasn't "2020". ;-)

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Peter Hancock 1 year, 8 months ago

You're right Catalano. Thanks. Maybe my blurry vision prevented me from seeing the horizon.

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blondejuan 1 year, 8 months ago

What does Horizon 2020 got to do with anything. Depending on the commissioners and who is complaining the loudest Horizon 2020 gets changed. When that thing was written times were different.

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Joe Hyde 1 year, 8 months ago

It would equally help the supporters and opponents of this proposed sand and gravel mining operation if the Journal-World would attach aerial photos (or something similar) that color highlight the boundary lines of the mining site. Without this information it is difficult for readers to visualize the project and thereby get a feel for the long-term environmental changes its approval might bring.

Maybe there were some in the beginning and I missed seeing them, but there haven't been any published visuals on this project for a very long time despite numerous news articles on the subject. With serious traffic accidents, we almost always get visuals showing the exact location where the crash occured. I would submit that this huge sand pit operation is clearly important enough to rate visual attachments on each story relating to the public debate it has caused.

I think a lot of readers would be grateful. I know I would.

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Randall Uhrich 1 year, 8 months ago

I'd like to know the story on that huge hill of sand north of the river and west of the road,just across the bridge north of Eudora. Is there a reason that supply of sand is not being used? Would there be enough there to be worthwhile? Just wondering.

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LivedinLawrence4Life 1 year, 8 months ago

This sand operation should be approved. It will keep local jobs and help keep construction costs more affordable.

If commissioners feel that sandy area between Lawrence and Eudora is such precious farmland, they should buy the land for fair market value and preserve it. Otherwise, it is not right to tell a landowner that he must only farm his land because a few want to preserve farmland. The farmers who once owned this land already sold it to Penny. The farmers got paid and moved on so let's not shed too many tears for farmers needing more farmland. Yields are high and our government still takes your tax dollars and pays farmers to not farm their land due to over production. The Dust Bowl happened when we felt the need to farm the entire state of Kansas. We need more businesses that keep jobs local. We need to stop sending companies away from our area in the name of "saving farmland".

A prior news article revealed that Penny's is moving their sand operations off the river to this site if approved. This seems like a logical step. Penny's already owns the land and they are not asking to use public land or public funding. Penny's is the only locally owned concrete company here. Allowing them to use sand from their own local land makes sense. Otherwise, it has to be trucked in from out of state which causes local dollars to go out of state and increases the local costs of our roads, driveways, foundations, and sidewalks that need sand to build.

Bill Penny is a great guy and a longtime local business owner. The Penny family lives In the Lawrence area and this is an opportunity to keep some of their operations and jobs in the Lawrence and Eudora area. Let's not force yet another company to relocate elsewhere while trying to protect dirt. I noticed the permit ultimately calls for the sand pit to be turned into a lake perhaps like the one you see next to the turnpike near Lawrence. That sounds like a great solution.

Let's hope other commissioners re-think this application and approve Bill Penny's sand permit.

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