LAKE ANN — Several residents are expected to speak out against a gravel mining operation proposed for Inland Township.
A required public hearing for the gravel pit, which would be located on Oakley Road, will be held by the Homestead Inland Joint Planning Commission meeting at 6 p.m. Monday at the Inland Township Hall on Honor Highway.
More than 100 residents showed up to speak out against the gravel pit at a public hearing held during the August planning meeting, but the issue was tabled because there were several things that needed to be clarified, said Jeff Sandman, chair of the planning commission.
Many of them belong to a new group, the Friends of the Platte River Watershed, that formed to fight the gravel pit. The group is represented by the Traverse City law firm Olson, Bzdok & Howard, which has experience in environmental law.
“Our property values are going to take a huge hit, as opposed to just a hit,” said Jim Brouwer, whose property abuts the proposed site on the north.
The 150-acre property is owned by Alan Leman of Traverse City. Leman is the former owner of Precision Paving in Interlochen, which he sold in February.
“It’s not some big corporation that wants to rape the land,” Leman said. “It’s a local guy who wants to go to work on a piece of property.”
Oakley Road does not go through a neighborhood and is not well-traveled, he said, adding that he will only be mining 4 acres at a time.
The parcel is located in the township’s residential and rural residential zones. Mining is allowed in all township zoning districts with a special use permit. Leman has applied for that permit, which requires that a public hearing is held before possible approval by the planning commission.
Brouwer said he is concerned with how the gravel pit will affect the environment. There are hundreds of deer, birds and other wildlife, as well as people who hike, fish and hunt in the Pere Marquette State Forest located next to the site, he said.
“Everyone uses that area and a gravel pit with industrial machinery, crushers and trucks backing up ... You think it’s going to change the environment? Yes.”
It’s a quality of life issue, Brouwer said.
“We chose to live in an area that’s wild and we love it,” he said.
The Friends group worries about losing local control of siting future mining operations in light of Senate Bill 431, introduced by Sen. Adam Hollier, a Detroit Democrat.
If passed, the bill would take away the ability of local municipalities to deny permits for the operations.
Those in favor of the bill — including the Michigan Aggregates Association — say access to gravel for road construction is needed to contain costs and to stretch the state’s road budget.
Opponents say the bill would mean gravel mines could be located within 300 feet of a suburban home and favors industry over local control.
One of the proposed Benzie gravel pit’s most vocal objectors is Andrea Struble, of Texas, who owns 26 acres that also abut the site. She purchased the land and planned to build on it and retire there. She later changed her mind.
“It was so beautiful I decided I could not build on it,” said Struble, who has a summer home in Oscoda.
A letter from Sara Kopriva, zoning administrator for both Homestead and Inland townships, says the site plan submitted by Leman did not meet a standard that says mining operations must be at least 150 feet from interior boundary lines of a property. According to Kopriva’s letter, that setback is only 20 feet.
Leman said the site plan has since been revised and the setback is actually greater than 150 feet.
Brouwer said Leman’s application did not include an environmental impact statement or a restoration plan for after the gravel has been extracted; Leman said both have been added to his application.
Brouwer also the application does not have an air quality permit from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy and has no information on how Leman will control surface water contamination.
Leman said neither is required because of the nature of his operation.
According to the zoning ordinance, “air pollution in the form of dust and dirt shall be kept to a minimum.” It also states that a mining operation cannot be located within 100 feet of any stream or waterway unless previously approved by the Michigan Water Resources Commission.
The gravel pit will be located about 1/4 mile north of the Platte River and about one mile north of the Platte River State Fish Hatchery.
“It’s not some big corporation that wants to rape the land. It’s a local guy who wants to go to work on a piece of property.” Alan Leman, property owner