June 18, 2013

Businessman wants to collapse mined land in Lee’s Summit

Planning commission urges the City Council to say no, but public hearing is scheduled July 11.

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 and a business owner nearby, and some people in the Bent Tree subdivision south of the interstate, are concerned that 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 clear about the plan and its potential hazards. It voted 5-1 to recommend that the City Council deny Short a special use permit to proceed.

A public hearing is scheduled July 11 before the council.

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 also would remove a layer of shale and soil, set it aside, then spread it over the mine floor once limestone is quarried.

The 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. Safeguards would include seismic detectors at property lines.

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