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Lee’s Summit planning commission rejects plan to reclaim mined area

Updated: 2013-06-26T03:28:33Z

By RUSS PULLEY

Special to The Star

Lee’s Summit businessman Flip Short wants to reclaim land just northwest of Pryor Road and Interstate 470 by collapsing mines riddling that area.

Several residents, a nearby business owner and some people in the Bent Tree subdivision south of the interstate are concerned the plan might damage their property by disturbing the rock.

Or, they said, dust might be a nuisance and health hazard, as Short’s proposal includes crushing and selling limestone.

On June 11, the Lee’s Summit Planning Commission agreed with opponents that not enough is known about the plan and its possible hazards. It voted 5-1 to recommend that the City Council deny Short a special use permit to proceed.

The council has a public hearing scheduled for the project July 11.

Christine Bushyhead, a lawyer representing Short’s company, The Family Ranch LLC, told the commission the mine is already collapsing, causing sinkholes.

She said the previous mining company exceeded its permits while excavating between the 1960s and 80s. In 2003 when a developer wanted to use the mines for underground storage, an engineering study found them to be unstable. They are abandoned, unsuitable for storage or building above, she said. The area is between Quarry Road and the interstate, and extends past Lowenstein Road.

“It has to be collapsed,” Bushyhead said.

Short’s plan is to start excavating more limestone in phases, removing stone pillars that support the mine’s roof. The operation would also remove a layer of shale and soil, set it aside, then spread it over the mine floor once limestone is quarried.

The idea is that ground level would drop by about 25 feet, but then it would be possible to build on the site.

Rod Gravitt, who owns 10 acres with a house nearby, questioned how the roof could drop without affecting his property. His house sits on bedrock, but mines underlie part of his property and Lowenstein Road, which he uses to reach home.

“That’s the same lid my house sits on,” Gravitt said.

Scott Blankenship, who owns a tree care business next to the site, said the quarrying would occur on three sides of him.

“Are we really going to be surrounded by this use and left on a cliff?” he asked.

Kevin Thomas, of Thomas Crushing, who would run the quarry operation, explained that water that now floods part of the mine would be used for dust suppression.

He said modern techniques would allow removing the pillars without damaging other property. Thomas said the operation would be different from an open-faced mine like the Barber Quarry that is between Lee’s Summit and Lake Lotawana.

Safeguards would include seismic detectors at property lines.

Bushyhead said that previous blasting might have fractured the limestone enough that no more explosives would be necessary for excavation. Because of the age and flooding of the mines, she said there is uncertainty about its layout and conditions, she said. The company so far has made limited exploration of the mine.

Commissioners had their own questions such as whether water from the mines would pollute the Little Blue River and if mining would be safe for workers or nearby property given that the roof already has collapsed in spots.

Commissioner Steven Hilger said he thought the commission was hearing conflicting information from the applicant.

“It’s not safe ... but I’ll give you a tour,” Hilger said, as an example.

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