Clark County commissioners rejected a proposed settlement with a local mining company Wednesday after close to 100 Mad River Twp. residents packed into a county hearing room to oppose the deal.
Enon Sand and Gravel filed a federal lawsuit against the county last year, seeking to bypass the Clark County Board of Zoning Appeals and protect its right to surface mining on the property, according to court records. It also sought damages in excess of $25,000.
The county had reached a tentative agreement with the company after a mediation process, Clark County Commissioner Richard Lohnes said. But the commissioners voted two to one against the agreement, in part because of the resident turnout to oppose the settlement. The Mad River Twp. residents have long raised concerns about how work proposed by the company would impact neighboring property values, water wells, traffic and more. Opponents said Wednesday there are about 200 homes adjacent to the property and more that are close to the mining operation.
“We have not had one email or phone call in support of doing this,” Lohnes said of why he voted against the settlement.
The commissioners said turning down the deal meant risking a court fight in which the county may not prevail. Lohnes said it’s also possible the company would be willing to renegotiate or take a second look at the settlement once residents had more time to review the proposal.
But Dennis Garrison, president of Enon Sand and Gravel, said a court date in January is now likely.
“The courthouse is the next step because they voted against the agreement today,” Garrison said.
The mining company applied to the 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.
After discussions with their attorneys, the commissioners said they have no authority to prevent the firm from mining on several parcels of property on which the company has conducting mining operations in the past. The settlement agreement would have required Enon Sand and Gravel to seek approval from the county’s Board of Zoning Appeals before it could proceed with any operations on additional parcels to the north and south where mining had not occurred in the past.
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Rejecting the settlement means there’s no guarantee residents will have a say in whether the company conducts operations on the additional parcels to the north and south, said Melanie Flax Wilt, the lone commissioner who voted in favor of the agreement.
“We’re trying to do what’s best for the community to protect you and get the best resolution that we can,” said Commissioner Lowell McGlothin, who also voted against the settlement.
Kyle Peterson, a Mad River Twp. resident who’s long been opposed to the quarry, said he remains confident the company would consider renegotiating its proposed settlement with the county and said both sides are taking a risk by taking the case to the courts early next year.
He said residents who have opposed the company’s project for more than a year only learned about the proposed settlement about a day ago. Peterson said he’s glad the commissioners put the brakes on the deal for now.
“They put on a poker face, but they don’t want to go to court as much as we don’t want to go to court,” Peterson said of Enon Sand and Gravel.
He said residents living near the mining operation are concerned the proposed work will harm an aquifer they rely on for well water, and could force many residents to pay thousands for new wells. There are also concerns the water could become contaminated and the project will be a nuisance by creating additional noise.
“The loss of well water is the biggest concern,” Peterson said.
Garrison said Wednesday he’s aware of the concerns neighbors have raised, but said there are safeguards in place to mediate those concerns. He also argued state officials have addressed concerns from neighboring properties through the permitting process. He said the company was prepared to move forward with the settlement Wednesday.
“We as a company went through the mediation process and we thought we had a deal with the county,” Garrison said.
Joe Catanzaro, a Mad River Twp. trustee, said residents clearly made a case they weren’t interested in agreeing to the proposal Wednesday. He said he’s glad the commissioners took residents seriously.
“I think a better outcome will come from this situation,” Catanzaro said.