Archive for Wednesday, September 25, 2002

Residents win fight against proposed mine finally

September 25, 2002

Who does not want a proposed mine neighboring their property?

That's the question Andrea Harrington-Summers posed to the audience during a Leavenworth County Commission meeting Thursday, Sept. 19.

The meeting centered around whether to approve a special-use permit allowing Rocca Processing L.L.C. to operate a mine in southern Leavenworth County, near 158th Street and Golden Road.

Audience members responded to Harrington-Summers' question by raising their hands in a show of unanimous disapproval for the proposed new business.

"Your decision here today could change the lives of many," Harrington-Summers said.

"We put our faith in you," she added.

After the public show of disapproval, the County Commission voted 3 to 0 to deny Rocca Processing's special-use permit application, citing traffic problems and safety issues as key concerns.

"The safety and traffic is my most concern," County Commission member Don Navinsky said. "That's the one we haven't had enough information on."

The commissioners' decision comes on the heels of a 5 to 4 vote recommending denial of the application by the Leavenworth County Planning Commission.

The Planning Commission's decisions are usually upheld by the county commissioners, Daniels said.

"That's always been my litmus test," he said.

The Planning Commission asked Jeff Burton, one of the mine's managing partners, hire engineers to study traffic impacts the operation would have on surrounding areas.

Burton said the traffic study had not been done and asked the commissioner's for an extension before making a final decision.

The commissioners nearly complied with Burton's request. However, a 2 to 1 vote to send the issue back to the Planning Commission was overturned because the vote wasn't unanimous.

"I'm not certain (a traffic study) will solve the problem," Daniels said. "We're wasting their time and our time by sending it back."

The proposed mining operation was not only opposed by neighboring residents, landowners and the Planning Commission, but also by John Zoellner, the county's planning and zoning director.

Zoellner cited Rocca's inability to complete the traffic study and work with nearby property owners to smooth over differences.

"They could have done the right thing," Zoellner said. "But they didn't and that worries me.

"If you're going to error, I think you should error on the side of public safety," he added.

The commissioners' decision brings an end to the mining issue, which had been opposed by area residents for the past six months.

Nearby residents had said they were worried the proposed mining operation would have consequences for surrounding cities such as Basehor, Linwood and Bonner Springs.

Residents also said the mine would lower property values in the area, pollute the environment and worsen road conditions.

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