Mad River Twp. residents urged Clark County commissioners to fight a lawsuit filed against it in federal court by a mining company seeking to bypass a local zoning board.
About 20 Mad River Twp. residents and members of the group Citizens Against Mining attended the commission meeting held at the Clark County Fair on Tuesday to speak against Enon Sand and Gravel’s planned mine. Several wore T-shirts that read “No Quarry.”
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.
The state granted that permit July 13, the same day the business filed its suit against the county.
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 citizens group will continue to fight the permit decision, board member Kyle Peterson said. The group has collected more than 1,500 signatures from residents opposed to the quarry, he said. They’re concerned about how the quarry could affect property values, water wells, traffic, noise and more.
The property is near more than 200 homes, Greenon High School and several businesses. The impacts are real, Peterson said.
The mine is expected to be about 420 acres. Nearly the entire village of Enon could fit inside the land occupied by the mine, Peterson said. The existing 175-acre quarry sits about five miles from the proposed site, he said.
“(The old mine) will be eclipsed by this new proposed monstrosity that will leave nothing but a crater in the middle of Mad River Township,” he said. “Do we really need another one? Does this truly benefit the community?”
Jeurgensen Aggregates, which owns Enon Sand and Gravel and 16 other sites in Ohio, didn’t respond to requests for comment Tuesday. Company leaders have said before they comply with all state regulations and air quality rules and have had only a few issues with well water in recent years. It will work with local leaders on its plans, company leaders have said previously.
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, it alleges in its lawsuit.
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.
Clark County has taken no action against the company and never heard from the company about a possible zoning board case, Clark County Commissioner Rick Lohnes said. He stands by the decision by the community development department that it must apply to the zoning board.
“That’s how I feel about it personally,” he said.
ODNR examined a narrow set of criteria and had no choice to grant the permit, Lohnes said. However the permit says the company must comply with local regulations as part of the approval, he said.
“It was very specific and said it several times,” Lohnes said.
The Mad River Twp. trustees are opposed to the mining operation and will do whatever they can to stop it, Trustee Kathy Estep said.
“We have very limited authority, but we are opposed to it and we ask the county commission to please, please vigorously support our right to have local control over land use through county zoning,” she said. “I haven’t personally met anyone in Mad River Twp. who is in favor of this, not just individuals who live adjacent to the property, but the whole township.”
The Ohio Attorney General’s office told the citizens group ODNR’s decision to approve the mining permit could be appealed to the Ohio Reclamation Commission, Peterson said. The group is considering filing with the commission, he said.
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