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  • Writer's pictureCharlene Sims, Journal staff

Commission denies quarry permit on split vote

Updated: Jun 10

By Charlene Sims, info@linncountyjournal.com


MOUND CITY – After tabling approval of Mulberry Limestone for a conditional use permit (CUP) for a quarry three times, Linn County Commissioners Jim Johnson and Danny McCullough voted to deny the permit on Monday, May 28.


Before the vote to deny the permit, Commission Chair Jason Hightower made a motion to approve it, however, that motion died for lack of a second.


Discussion centered around the setbacks from property lines, possible blasting damages to homes, and the distance from the highway. The conditions already in the permit addressed many of these issues.


At the April 15 commission meeting, Johnson asked that the permit application, which had already been recommended for approval on a split vote by the county’s planning commission, be sent back to the planners to change the conditions on the setbacks to the 200 feet offered by Jake Wade and buffer zones. The planning commission in its meeting earlier this month made those changes and also added that neighboring landowners had the right to opt out of having a setback on their property line.  


The letter sent to the planning committee from the commissioners said, please make the additional restrictive language as set forth below:


“Minimum setback requirements from the road right-of-way line for all building shall be at a minimum two hundred feet. Said two hundred feet shall be landscaped and maintained in accordance with applicant’s plan submitted to and approved by the Linn County Planning and Zoning Commission. Access and egress driveways will be allowed within the 200-foot setback strip.”


Johnson asked the first question of when the blasting times would be. Planning and Zoning Director Darin Wilson said application stipulated that it would be from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.


Matt Blessant, owner of Mulberry Limestone, said most of the time it would be around noon.


Johnson said, “My concern is there are multiple shift workers. I think that could disturb sleep patterns for people who work night shifts.”


Next Johnson asked about setbacks. ”I don’t know where as far as 200 feet. How close can somebody build?” he asked. “Is 200 feet going to be the blasting, are they going to blast up to 200 feet?” 


Blessant said that they would have to drill the rock to see how close it ran to the 200 feet.


Johnson then asked how close they would be blasting to the highway.


Wade said it would be the 200 feet to the property line and then about another 100 to 120 feet to the highway. 


Johnson asked if there was going to be anyway to notify people going down the highway because that was going to be loud.


“Actually, they would never hear it, I mean I don’t think it would alarm anybody in that aspect,” answered Wade.


McCullough asked how often the permit would be revisited.


Wilson said that it would be up for renewal in five years.


“The actual regulation says 10 years, but planning and zoning can add what they want,” said Wilson.


McCullough asked how inspections would be done on foundations if people had finished basements. He then also asked why Pleasanton did not approve a quarry in the past. Wilson said he was not working with the county then and had not been able to find any record of why it was not approved.


Hightower verified with Blessant that there would be pre-blast surveys done on the surrounding homes and annual inspections as set forth in the CUP. Blessant said yes.


Hightower asked Wilson to read the conditions where this information was included.


Johnson asked if they would be blasting up to the buffer at the 200 feet.


Blessant explained, “We would have to drill the rock and see how close we can go. Two hundred foot should be safe.”


Wade told the commissioners about a house at another site where they had blasted within 79 yards of the house that had been there for about 45 years. He asked to inspect the foundation and there was one small crack on the side opposite from where the shock wave would have come from.


“I understand everybody’s concern on that and it is a legitimate concern, but I think it’s a little bit blown out of proportion because people don’t know about it so much,” said Wade.


“Yeah, but until you get into a situation where a homeowner is pissed off about their basement and then you guys insurance company, whoever’s insurance company, is going to be like no that wasn’t our we didn’t that we will, I mean,” said McCullough questioned whether the quarry company’s insurance would pay for any claim that a homeowner made or would deny the claim.


“I do understand what you are saying there,” said Wade. “At the same time, just because there is a crack, like George Nunnemacher’s for instance. He told me he didn’t have any cracks in his basement. I bought his house. There’s cracks all over the basement. There’s no rock quarry there.


 “What happens is you always have people trying to get something for nothing and people got to watch out for themselves. And that’s why they have these protocols in place so things like that don’t happen.”


Wade said that they were doing the best they could by offering this free service to have basements inspected at first and yearly and they will be operating under the county, state and federal guidelines about blasting.


“Then I don’t know what else a guy can do,” said Wade.


Wade said that by stopping at the 200 foot setback it makes the closest blasting to any house about 600 feet.


“But you are stopping them from using their ground too. That’s what I am saying. What if they decide they want to use right across fence. I mean, what if they want to build something 50 feet from the property (line),” asked Johnson.


“There’s always a ‘what if,’ I guess,” said Wade.


“You’re controlling them a little bit of what they can do with their property,” said Johnson.


Wade told Johnson that the regulations set by the state are done with a reason, and the people need to understand that.


“You guys can come in and tell us your opinion on it, but that’s not facts either,” said McCullough. “I’m all about development in Linn County, trust me,” he added.


Wade read a closing statement with the commissioners’ permission:


“Since the planning and zoning found the site suitable for the quarry and it is an overall net positive for the county and a vast majority of the citizens, I encourage you to approve the conditional use permit for Mulberry Limestone to operate at the said location.


“I would find it very discouraging if a few people were able to use my property for their sole peaceful enjoyment.”


At this point in Monday’s meeting, Hightower made a motion to approve the CUP but it died for lack of a second.


Hightower asked for a motion to deny the CUP. 


“That it was catastrophic to the neighbors and doesn’t benefit them at all, I think that they are going to get the short end of the stick and I am here to protect them,” McCullough stated. “So, I am all about development in Linn County, but I don’t think it’s right. They went around with a petition and they’ve voiced their concern. They voiced their reasoning, and I’m just not in favor of it.”


McCullough made a motion to deny the CUP and Johnson seconded. The motion  passed 2 to 1.


Blessant asked Johnson why he denied it. He said he needed to have an answer on that.


Johnson said, “Because of the location next to the city.” 


While the Linn Valley city limit extends east to U.S. 69, the only structures within a half mile on 2400 Road are those of city offices that are temporary buildings about 100 yards west of the highway.


Has the county got any areas for rock quarries zoned, asked Blessant.


“I tell you what I lived around a rock quarry for a long time as a kid and was a long ways from it but I’ve also seen the neighbors of what happened right across the fence,” said  Johnson. Blessant explained that things have changed since then.


Blessant brought up the amount of money Wade had spent on the project and that the people who built new houses in this area built them where there was already an existing rock quarry. 


Findings were not given when the motion was made but were decided on when they were requested by the Planning and Zoning Director Darin Wilson. 


County Counselor Mark Hagen told the commissioners that was a very good question.


“For the sake of the county, make a record of what findings of fact led to that,” Hagen said. “I think we talked about in one of our executive sessions a case with the city of Shawnee versus somebody. 


“It’s kind of critical that if the person who was denied the conditional use permit were to want to appeal the decision some place else. Let’s give whoever is looking at it some ammunition to, you know, side with us so to speak. Some specific findings, we all went to that training so we are looking for those Overland Park versus Golden rules and I will turn it over to you.”


Findings found by the commissioners and stated after the denial of the quarry application were:


• Opposition from nearby landowners.

• Too close to the city. 

• Setbacks were not acceptable. 

• Blasting too close to the highway.

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