Edgerton residents will have to wait a few weeks for a decision on whether a nearby quarry operator will be allowed to expand its operations to include a portable asphalt and concrete plant.
The Johnson County Commission decided to delay a vote on the proposal by Bettis Asphalt & Construction after hearing impassioned objections from neighbors.
Commissioners gave the business until Sept. 25 to meet with residents and address their concerns about a variety of issues, including air quality, odor, noise and traffic.
Residents opposed to the plant gave tearful testimony about how it would affect them. They said they did not want their children to breathe fumes and dust from the plant and worried that noise and unsightliness would drive down property values. Some speakers pointed out that the quarry itself, which is just outside Edgerton city limits, was grandfathered into county zoning laws and would not be approved under today’s laws because of its proximity to residential areas.
The plant has been a hot topic among Edgerton residents since the proposal began working its way through the approval process last spring. Bettis and landowner Mid-States Ventures had asked for a 10-year conditional use permit to operate the plant at the quarry at 20125 Sunflower Road.
Neighbors of the plant have felt disenfranchised because of the rules about who is entitled to legally protest. Since most of the land surrounding the quarry is owned by the county park department and commercial business, the voice of residents has been limited, said Shelly George of Edgerton.
Property owners within 1,000 feet of the quarry could sign a protest petition that would require a super majority of county commission votes for approval.
However, George said only three properties met that requirement. Many residents live just outside that 1,000-foot limit. She collected 200 signatures of other Edgerton residents who were against the proposed plant. Near tears, George pleaded with the commission to take those residents’ concerns into account.
“We’d really like you to consider us and our families and our property values and our health before you make this decision,” said George, who lives about 1,500 feet from the quarry and can see it from her house in winter.
Liz Brooks, also of Edgerton, said that with a library and school within a mile of the plant, she was concerned about emissions. Odor from the plant may result in children being kept indoors, and increased traffic will make the streets more dangerous, she said.
“This is a community, not an industrial park,” she said. “It would be easier for Bettis to find another location that would be more suitable than right outside where the community is.”
Bill Braun, also of Edgerton, argued that increased activity at the quarry would bring property values down and further decrease revenues the city needs for services as it expands. “If you Google asphalt plants, you’ll find all kinds of reasons why you shouldn’t have them close to people,” Braun said.
Residents aren’t the only ones who have been watching the Bettis plan closely. The city of Edgerton expressed reservations about damage to the roads that would be caused by the increased traffic. The new plant is expected to generate 300 to 500 more vehicles per day, on top of the 720 per day that already travel the road.
The county park and recreation commission also has been eying it because of its nearness to its event center at Mildale Farm.
Some of the concerns have been worked out since the proposal first began at the Southwest Consolidated Zoning Board. The use permit is now for five years instead of 10, and some commissioners even talked of reducing it to one or two years so any problems can be addressed sooner.
The Edgerton City Council negotiated a separate deal with Bettis for an impact fee of 5 cents per ton of asphalt produced and sold. Revenues would be used to repair roads along the truck route. The company also has agreed to relocate the plant entrance, pave a portion of its interior roads to alleviate dust and install rumble strips that would jiggle mud and debris off the trucks before they can be tracked onto city streets, said Edgerton City Administrator Beth Linn.
The business also agreed to cut back weekend business hours, which had been a main concern of the park department. The plant would run from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fridays and 6 a.m. to noon Saturdays, rather than the regular 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. hours, said Jim Hubbard, attorney for the Bettis.
For a few moments during the meeting, it looked as if the proposal might be denied. Commissioner Ed Peterson’s motion to approve died from lack of a second, and then Commissioner Jim Allen moved to deny the use permit.
The Edgerton area already has a lot going on with the existing quarry and intermodal freight facility, Allen said. “I just think this is too intense of a use. They’re grandfathered in and I understand that. But we do have the authority and ability to say enough is enough.”
Peterson said that the applicants’ rights should also be considered. Bettis has shown willingness to play by the rules and work with residents, the city and parks department, he said, and violations can always be punished under the zoning code.
In the end, the motion to deny the permit was defeated 4-2 with only Allen and Commissioner John Toplikar voting for it. (Commissioner Steve Klika was absent.)
George said she was encouraged that the commission was willing to listen to residents. Although commissioners didn’t deny it, “they didn’t approve it, so I felt it was a positive thing.”