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Appeal denied

Negaunee Township ZBA upholds Planning Commission decision on Kona Ridge

Nick Leach, manager, Negaunee Township

NEGAUNEE — A gravel pit expansion request in Negaunee Township will have to go back to the drawing board.

The Negaunee Township Zoning Board of Appeals denied an appeal from Kona Ridge LLC on Oct. 30.

A subsidiary of A. Lindberg and Sons, Kona Ridge sought to reverse the Oct. 9 decision of the Negaunee Planning Commission to deny a conditional use permit application for the 15-acre expansion of its existing gravel pit operation along Marquette County Road 510.

The request to allow the company to expand operations to an adjacent parcel where it would blast, extract, grind and wash gravel was denied because it did not meet township requirements, according to planning commission meeting minutes.

The planning commission had requested the company fund a $20,000 escrow fee administered by the township that would be used to pay SME-USA, a consulting firm which would conduct an assessment related to property owners’ concerns about possible hydrological impacts to the local aquifer and wells, and blasting impacts on nearby structures.

The township was specifically concerned with “potential contamination of well water” and “damage to the foundations of houses and other structures,” Township Manager Nick Leach said in a previous interview.

Other reasons for denial include the lack of a baseline audiogram as required by the township zoning ordinance; information on the scope and impact of proposed crushing operations; a viable plan to access water for operations; dust control sufficiency; and the impact of proposed operations on land values as some residential structures are just 1,000 feet away from the proposed area where blasting would occur.

“Based on all available information considered, the planning commission determines that the applicant has not met its necessary burden … (which) requires that the proposed extraction operation must be harmonious with and in accordance with the general policies of Negaunee Township,” the planning commission stated in its Oct. 9 decision.

According to minutes from the Oct. 30 ZBA meeting, A. Lindberg and Sons representative Reed Alderton said the company filed the appeal because “the planning commission erred in their decision making.”

The company’s concerns included issues with the required engineering study in that “the request is open ended” leading to more information requests and more funding requirements; the planning commission’s designated engineering firm is not the only option for the study; and “there are federal regulations relating to blasting” that the company will abide by and “the (federal) government has spent billions of dollars to study these issues.”

Further, according to the ZBA minutes, company officials believe the township “will blanket deny any application submitted” by A. Lindberg and Sons.

Alderton did indicate, according to the ZBA minutes, that the company is “still willing to work with the township.”

The company can submit a new application at any time, Leach said in a Nov. 5 email.

“Their application was denied without prejudice meaning the planning commission would review a new application if submitted with more complete information,” Leach said.

Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is lbowers@miningjournal.net.