KEARNEY — A proposed plan to open the old city quarry and rezone the space for industrial use is causing a dustup among city residents who are worried about traffic, safety and noise and air pollution in an area that also includes a nearby elementary school.

The plan

In December, the city held a public hearing on the plan from developers Craig Porter and Chris Shipley of I-35 Holdings, who seek to have the southeast quadrant of Interstate 35 and 19th Street rezoned to a planned industrial district and seek a conditional use permit to allow quarry operations on the property for up to seven years. Aldermen tabled the discussion until after the planning and zoning commission made a recommendation on the property. The zoning commission tabled the property discussion until its Monday, Jan. 13 meeting.

The limestone quarry has not been in use in multiple decades, with the last limestone quarried from the property used to build I-35, said Porter.

Community opposition

After learning of the developers’ plans, handfuls of Kearney residents wrote letters in opposition to the project to city leaders. In addition in December, upwards of 80 residents spoke against the project during planning and zoning and aldermanic meetings.

“If this is allowed, it will devalue the price of homes in the area, including mine, which is in the Greenfield neighborhood. It will also add dust pollution, which is a major health issue for my family,” wrote LaborMax Staffing President Tony Shine in his letter to Kearney Community Development Director David Pavlich, adding Kearney’s small-town charm, which attracts other residents and businesses, would be lost if quarrying is allowed. “... I would have never moved to Kearney if I knew the quarrying was on the table.”

Resident Bruce Miller said if quarrying is allowed, it would upend quiet streets, traffic and opportunities to enjoy nature and walk outside near his residence off Old Trail Run.

“The increase in noise from such an operation will be significant. The increase in large truck traffic will certainly increase wear and tear on the roads in the area as well as traffic,” he wrote to Pavlich.

Resident Gary Becker, who lives on Petty Road, worries about the environmental impact of the development, saying developers cannot guarantee that nearby Fishing River will not be negatively impacted.

“Nobody guaranteed zero impact to Fishing River,” he said, adding his concerns are significant regarding wildlife, area property values and possible damage to physical property in the vicinity as the project includes blasting to remove limestone.

“This can be completed without blasting. Anyone who says the project cannot be done without blasting is socializing in fake news,” he said.

Kearney resident and Liberty attorney Bill Shull, whose family lives near the edge of development, said if leaders approve the project, they are risking liability and dangers of potential toxicity that has not been measured for a development project that has no guarantee of coming to fruition. Shull, noting a recent case from Greenwood, Missouri, said Kearney leaders should not want to be in the same boat, where homeowners won a $831,000 settlement after a neighborhood was forced to endured years of heavy truck traffic from a nearby quarry.

Joann Becker said people should be worried about particulates in the air that would be emitted by the quarry. Those particulates, she said, can have “grave health concerns” for those around the area including her grandchildren.

“Think of our children because our children are our future,” she said. “Everyone wants someone else to bear the costs of making money.”

Laura Coffey said children who practice football on the nearby field will suffer if the quarry is allowed.

“We stood together as a town to get rid of smoking in our businesses for the betterment of our kids. How are we allowing this,” she said.

Derek Melhorn said in addition to children in nearby Hawthorne Elementary School, he worries about damage to physical property from blasting like his, which includes an outbuilding about 15 feet from the rock shelf that crews may be blasting.

“I’m all about this group making money and having a business, but not if it means trucks and all that it brings to the area for years,” he said. “This town has survived without this quarry and it can continue to do so.”

Answers to community concerns

Phyllis Hasser, vice president of Vibra-Tech, the company that would be in charge of monitoring blasts, said blasting would not be done each day of quarry operation and that it would be done in a central area of the site, not throughout, so impact to residences would be minimal if felt at all.

“It is possible someone may will feel or hear it,” she said, “... but it’s so small that there is a probability that the state fire marshal doesn’t require us to measure it.”

As for health concerns from dust, Hasser said pollutants that can cause cancer and other issues from dust are related to silica, of which there is none in the project.

Ron Cowger, engineer for the project, in an attempt to alleviate resident concerns, said the project’s plan for rock removal over seven years is to limit impact to the area, which currently calls for hours of operation in the window of 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Those hours and days are up to the city to decide.

If the development timeline was sped up, Cowger said, rock blasting, crushing and screening along with moving of the materials by truck would likely be going seven days per week.

The development plan’s calls for accessing the property using a driveway on Nation Road as opposed to Petty Road or 19th Street, he said, was created to minimize traffic impact.

“We do want to be a good neighbor,” he said, adding if the project only called for dirt removal or moving, there would be no issues or concerns from neighbors as those projects get passed without opposition all the time.

“Rock has a negative connotation to it. If this was just dirt we were talking about, there’d be no issue,” he said.

Shipley, who also operates an excavation business, said the equipment used in their proposal would be no different than that used in development of single-family subdivisions.

Even if aldermen approve the plan, Cowger said the project would need approval from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

“This is only one spoke in the wheel,” he said.

Managing Editor Amanda Lubinski can be reached at amanda.lubinski@mycouriertribune.com or 903-6001.

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