Developers, residents disagree on potential location of gravel pit in Negaunee Township

NEGAUNEE – An appeal to the Negaunee Township Zoning Board of Appeals is anticipated after a conditional use permit for a gravel pit off Marquette County Road 510 was denied Tuesday by the township planning commission.

Kona Ridge Mining LLC and developer A. Lindberg & Sons Inc. requested a permit to extract, screen and crush gravel and sand in portions of two parcels owned by Kona Ridge located south of County Road 510 – situated between Carrie and Hoist roads near the McClure Basin.

Township officials said the gravel pit, which was proposed at a remnant quarry site, was to have a minimum 20-year lifespan and be used for unspecified future projects in the area. As sections of the pit were mined, the vacant space was to be reclaimed as a residential subdivision.

The planning commission vote to deny the permit was unanimous. Members Gary Wommer, Carl Nurmi and Chairman Al Reynolds voted against granting the permit. Secretary Jim Thams was absent from the meeting and Commissioner Dennis Potila abstained because he is the chairman of the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Wommer, Nurmi and Reynolds did not respond to requests for comment before press time today.

Numerous residents in the area opposed development of the gravel pit, with nearly 30 people speaking out against the project at a recent planning commission meeting.

“There’s a lot of concerns from property devaluation to noise to increased truck traffic to safety and stormwater runoff issues,” said Joe Scanlan, Negaunee Township zoning administrator and planner.

Scanlan said there are homes located on all but one side of the proposed gravel pit. He said residents were especially concerned about potential decreases in property values with the gravel pit operation in the area and a provision requesting that a 1,000-foot setback requirement be reduced.

Scanlan said the setback requirement would push the pit back from the County Road 510 right-of-way by 1,000 feet. The requested reduction would have eliminated that buffer, putting the excavation within 500 feet of one residence, Scanlan said.

Attorney Ray O’Dea, who represents Kona Ridge and A. Lindberg & Sons Inc., did not respond to a request for comment before press time today.

According to minutes from a recent township planning commission meeting, O’Dea characterized the gravel pit site plan as “a good plan; it was sound and well thought out.”

O’Dea said he realized the three major resident concerns were noise, dust and safety. He assured residents activity at the gravel pit would be minimal and the crushing process would not take place more than four to six weeks each year, the minutes read.

O’Dea said he thought A. Lindberg & Sons “had a good plan, made by a good company with minimal impact,” the minutes state.

In May 2008, a previous conditional use permit request – to construct a residential subdivision- was also denied by the planning commission, according to Scanlan.

“They wanted to go in and quarry the whole area before making the subdivision,” Scanlan said.

Scanlan said A. Lindberg & Sons Inc. recently was granted approval to double the size of its gravel pit off Marquette County Road 550 and is seeking development of another pit in Powell Township.

Township officials said the use of at least some of that gravel was likely for county road improvement projects, including upgrades to county roads 550, 510 and the Triple A Road, which will serve as a transportation route for Rio Tinto to truck ore from its Eagle Mine to the Humboldt Mill processing center. Production is scheduled to begin at the mine in late 2014.

John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206.