- Allyson Brown Staff Writer
A mining company sued Clark County the same day the state granted it a new mining permit in Mad River Twp., despite significant opposition from neighbors.
The lawsuit from Enon Sand and Gravel seeks to bypass the Clark County Board of Zoning Appeals and “protect its right to continue prior nonconforming uses” of the property, according to court records. It also seeks damages from the county in excess of $25,000.
The mining company applied to Ohio Department of Natural Resources in November 2016 to mine limestone and merge two existing permits into one. The business wants to mine about 60 feet deeper on parts of its nearly 400-acre property near Hustead and South Tecumseh roads and Rebert Pike near a waterway, according to a letter from the mineral resources division.
The state granted that permit July 13, the same day the business filed its suit against the county, according to court records.
“Enon Sand & Gravel has complied with all requirements associated with Ohio Revised Code section 1514 and therefore, the Division of Mineral Resources Management is required to issue the permit,” said Mark Eiselstein, a spokesman for the state agency.
The property is near more than 200 homes, a high school and several businesses.
The site has been mined before and the company wants to see what else it can do with the property that has been permitted for mining for decades.
More than 200 residents packed a meeting at Greenon High School on March 27, many to voice their concerns about how the operation could affect their property values, well water, safety, noise and other issues.
Jeurgensen Aggregates owns 16 other sites in Ohio, company President Dennis Garrison said at the March meeting. The company complies with all state regulations and air quality rules, he said. The company has only had two complaints about well water issues at any of its sites in recent years.
In a statement to the Springfield News-Sun after the state issued its permit, Enon Sand and Gravel President Dennis Garrison said the following:
“A core part of our business at Enon Sand and Gravel has always been the implementation of sustainability guidelines as part of our continuous improvement program in the areas of health and safety, community relations and environmental stewardship. We take pride in our efforts and resulting benefits to the communities we serve.”
The company will work with local leaders on its plans, Garrison also said in his statement.
“As we move forward, Enon (Sand and Gravel) will endeavor to meet the obligations of the other federal, state and local requirements as they may relate to these modifications,” he said.
Lawyers for the business couldn’t be reached for comment after the suit was filed.
Clark County Commission President Rick Lohnes learned about the lawsuit last week.
“Clark County Commission has been sued as well as our economic development director, all in one swoop,” Lohnes said.
Clark County leaders believe the mining company must still go through the Clark County Board of Zoning Appeals before starting work, even though the state has issued a permit.
The county formed the zoning board in November 1964, according to court documents. But the company and its predecessors have been using the property for surface mining since before 1955, meaning its grandfathered in and doesn’t need a conditional use permit from the zoning board, according to its lawsuit.
“The Surface Mining Uses of the property predate the enactment of the Clark County Zoning Resolution (CCZR), they constitute prior non-conforming uses not subject to the CCZR,” the company alleges in its suit.
Lohnes believes the company wants to avoid Clark County’s zoning laws.
“They obviously think the odds of getting a good outcome from the Board of Zoning Appeals in this case are slim,” he said. “So they’ll just jump a step and go right to court.”
Catherine Vlcek lives on South Tecumseh Road a few hundred feet from the mining site.
“I figured it would go through, they would allow it,” Vlcek said.
Vlcek is concerned about the quarry because she knows someone who lives near a different mining operation. The town has disappeared, she said, because of the site. She’s also worried about her home’s foundation because she has a sinkhole in her backyard. She believes the nearby quarry could make things worse.
“I’m going to sink into the ground. The house and everything here will just go down,” Vlcek said.
Another concern is her well will become unusable and disappear.
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That section of Clark County doesn’t have a public water system. It relies on private wells and that concerns the Clark County Combined Health District because of the “several water wells that have tested positive for e-coli bacteria” in the past, according to a letter from the district.
The township is also concerned about safety, Mad River Twp. Trustee Kathy Estep said.
“The issue of the large trucks coming and going on fairly narrow county and township roads,” Estep said.
Opponents have formed Citizens Against Mining. The group sent the state agency a petition with more than 900 signatures and listed concerns about de-watering, blasting and the environment.
President Diana Pry is disappointed in the state’s decision to issue the permit but said she believes the operation needs to go through the zoning board.
“Enon Sand and Gravel still has the responsibility to apply for permission to mine through Clark County,” Pry said.
Court dates haven’t been scheduled at that time.