GIRARD — The Tuesday meeting of the Crawford County Commission saw a full house and hours of discussion fueled in part by a request for a change of zoning.
Zoning Administrator Troy Graham, put forth a request to the commission from Mulberry Limestone. He said that Mulberry Limestone wished to expand into land they had purchased on 4th Street past the old ostrich farm.
The owner of Mulberry Limestone, Matt Blessant and his representatives spoke to the commission about their plans, and answered questions about the quarrying process. The commissioners said that they had met with residents who were concerned about damage to their homes, and their property values.
Blessant said that the quarry wanted to be “good neighbors.” He explained they contract with a nationwide company, Austin Powder, to oversee their blasting. Blessant said Austin Powder has seismograph readings done during each blast to insure the levels are not excessive and do damage.
Commissioner Jeff Murphy expressed concerns about the dust and that a larger setback from the road with more trees may be needed. Commissioner Carl Wood agreed with Murphy, and said while they do want Mulberry Limestone to expand they also need to consider the welfare of residents around them.
Commissioner Tom Moody asked if they expected more truck traffic than before. Blessant said there should be no increase in truck traffic as they already operate in the area, and there are no residences on the road they use for that purpose.
Blessant said the operation would not be starting near the home of the resident whom he had been told was the most concerned, Ira and Becky Sponsel. He said it would probably be 50 years before the project came close to the Sponsel’s home.
“What if this goes forward and you decide to move immediately to the south instead of working on the north part of your property,” Murphy said.
Woods agreed and said it’s important that they have details like this in writing so they can assure people what will and won’t be going on.
The commissioners then heard from the Sponsel’s attorney, Steve Stockard. He pleaded with the council to consider the long term health and wellbeing of the family.
He pointed out that Ira Sponsel is a decorated war veteran, and his large victorian home is a landmark in the area. Stockard said the purpose of zoning is to allow residents to make informed decisions when purchasing or building a home.
“There’s a reason for zoning,” Stockard said. “It provides some assurance when people purchase a home that they will not be dealing a commercial operation.”
Stockard presented a letter from a local appraiser which stated the mining operation could have a negative effect on the value of the home.
The Sponsel’s built their home almost 20 years ago. Both Ira and Becky spoke to the commission about the emotional value of their home with Becky saying much of the woodwork was completed by their late father. They also expressed concerns about their health, and the effect of the operation on it.
Wood assured both parties this would not be a decision made in haste.
“That's not going to happen on our watch,” Wood said. “If this takes time and everyone comes back again, then fine.”
Nearby resident Caleb Stewart also spoke to the council about concerns damage could be done to his home. County Counsel Jim Emerson explained and was confirmed by a representative from Austin Powder that if damage was done by blasting, the company’s insurance would cover it. Stewart also said he was concerned about health problems.
“I’m not opposed to business, but I’m worried about my kids,” he said.
The commissioners were also provided an email from Gene Bicknell, who also owns property near the proposed quarry. In the letter Bicknell said he hoped the commission would protect and respect the nearby homeowners.
“Be sure there are no health issues, loss of property values, or damage to buildings and livestock being raised,” Bicknell wrote. “I know you will respect the homeowners in your decision and protect their personal assets that represent years of work and savings.”
The commissioners spoke at length with both parties, allowing them to respond to each other’s comments and concerns. After a considerable discussion they went into executive session with attorney Jim Emerson.
When they returned Wood spoke on behalf of the council and said the matter needed further clarification before they were prepared to vote on it. He said the commission would need some things in writing from the quarry, and he hopes they can help facilitate a solution which would work for both parties.
The commission tabled the vote and said they would host a work session to review the information provided and vote on it at a later time.