Limestone quarry plan under fire

Mike Genet
The Examiner USA TODAY NETWORK

The hearing for a proposed limestone quarry in Sugar Creek is to resume at 7 p.m., Thursday at Mike Onka Community Hall, 11520 Putnam St., part of a process that puts a final decision before the Board of Aldermen next month. 

Residents are opposed to plans for a quarry east of Missouri 291.

The hearing started Aug. 26, and numerous citizens voiced their displeasure about the potential project off Courtney-Atherton Road east of Missouri 291. They raised concerns about dust, noise and heavy-truck traffic. 

Central Plains Cement, formerly LaFarge, and partner companies are asking for a zoning change to allow the plans at 18301 E. Courtney-Atherton Road to go ahead. In addition, Central Plains Cement would need a city permit for open-pit mining, which requires a separate hearing. 

The Sugar Creek Planning and Zoning Commission heard last month from all citizens who signed up to speak, but after about two hours, company representatives still hadn't been able to answer questions or rebut testimony. The commission can only give a recommendation, and Sugar Creek's Board of Alderman ultimately votes on the matter.  

Mayor Mike Larson said the recommendation will come before the Board of Alderman on Oct. 11. If the four-member board approves rezoning, the process for the city permit begins. Larson said he will only vote as a tiebreaker. 

The proposed quarry site is in the area of the bluff looking out over the Missouri River. It’s northeast of the Courtney Ridge landfill visible from Missouri 291. It’s southeast of LaBenite Park and south of the Liberty Bend Conservation Area, across from the railroad tracks. Central Plains and partner companies own the land and have leased a portion for a tree farm. 

Citizens generally raised concerns about dust, excessive noise, heavy trucks moving along a narrow local road, particularly at the same time as school buses, and if blasting from the quarry might affect their homes' foundations.  

Darrell Eckman, whose Courtney-Atherton Road home would be nearly adjacent to part of the 900-acre quarry site, said the weeks since the August hearing have not tempered citizens' feelings, and they plan to continue their opposition. 

“We're trying to bring awareness to the situation – the noise, pollution, the traffic, the short-term effects,” he said. “And then there's the long-term effects. I think it goes beyond this neighborhood.” 

“It leaves a big depression, and it's got to be filled with something,” he added, referring to concerns of another potential landfill. “We're not a bunch of tree huggers. We like our lifestyle; want to live our lives without being picked up and shaken.” 

Eckman and nearby resident Riane Marsh said citizens question whether the mining companies will keep their word about mitigating harm to the environment. 

“How deep does that commitment actually go?” Marsh said. 

Kathy Adams, who lives just down the road from Eckman, runs an organic produce farm and said during the hearing that lime dust could reduce growth and yields of her produce. 

“My whole livelihood would be gone,” she said. 

Another citizen concern is the nearby aquifer from which the Independence Water Department draws its water. Sugar Creek and other cities in Eastern Jackson County are wholesale customers of Independence water. 

Independence Water Director Dan Montgomery said this week it's unclear what effect, if any, the quarry might have on the aquifer, and the department continues to investigate that. Central Plains' previous mining has been near the aquifer, he said. 

Brian Nunnenkamp, operations manager for partner company Talon, said during the hearing that companies plan to have a five-day work week with no overnight or weekend hours.  

Mining would start on a west corner of the property and eventually go north and east over the years, and crews will fill in and revegetate areas after mining is finished, Nunnenkamp said. Some wooded areas will not be disturbed. He estimates about 40,000 trucks per year would drive along the roads in connection with quarry work. 

Company plans show a gravel road to be constructed north of the Republic landfill, to divert truck traffic away from the residential area on the western-most Courtney-Atherton Road, as well as improving pavement on Courtney-Atherton Road to the west past Baker Road.