Lee’s Summit holds public hearing on quarrying to reclaim undermined land

rpulley@lsjournal.comAugust 14, 2013 

Flip Short, a Lee’s Summit businessman, says he has a solution for unstable rock mines north of Interstate 470 that have been idle for three decades.

The mine’s roof is collapsing, creating sinkholes, between Pryor Road and View High Drive. About 70 acres of that area from Pryor west is an unusable “brown field,” Short said, with a geological study in 2003 saying it isn’t even suitable for grazing animals. The situation is a hazard to teenagers who wander onto the land.

Real estate that’s not productive.

“We’re going to take this and turn it into an asset, now it’s a liability,” Short said.

He proposes to reclaim the land by quarrying rock in the mine’s roof and its supporting pillars.

That will drop ground level to bedrock covered with some fill rock and dirt.

It would become a usable building site, adding to the inventory of land for future development at a major intersection.

A handful of residents who own adjacent property oppose Short’s plan, as do some homeowners in subdivisions farther away, such as Bent Tree Bluffs. More are at least worried about potential effects of blasting, dust, or gravel trucks rumbling out of the site daily.

Thursday, Aug. 15, both sides will make their case to the City Council at a public hearing. A skeptical Planning Commission also had questions about the safety of mining, blasting and environmental effects and recommended denial of a special use permit.

Short said he’s bringing additional experts to testify to the council and provided an updated geological study to the city.

Short said there’s a lot of misinformation about his proposal in the community.

There won’t be a huge, open-pit mine, he said.

“The best was to visualize it is to look at the horse barn on the north side of I-470,” Short said. “The ground there will be lowered to the same level as the interstate.”

The quarrying won’t be visible from the highway because of a berm where high-voltage transmission lines between the highway and site. Work will stop short of those lines. It won’t disturb the bluffs at the west end toward View High Drive.

Quarrying will be completed in six-to-eight acre steps. Dirt and rock fill will be pushed to one side, limestone removed, and then fill pushed back in.

Short said misgivings about noise and tremors from blasting and dust are unwarranted.

The plan is to remove the underground pillars supporting the roof by blasting, move chunks of rock to Superior Bowen Asphalt (adjacent to the site across Quarry Park Road) for crushing and delivery to area construction projects.

That confines the working face to a small area. He said blasting won’t be noticed in the subdivisions.

The work will be similar to operations at Superior Bowen when the Missouri Department of Transportation built the “flyways” between Pryor Road and Blue Parkway, he said.

He notes blasting was necessary for building the Winterset subdivisions to the south of Bent Tree Bluffs.

Carol Siegrist, Bent Tree Bluffs homeowner’s association president, said its members are concerned about tremors, potential dust and truck traffic, after to talking to neighbors of a huge quarry near Lake Lotawana and one near Lakewood.

The Barber quarry, at Lake Lotawana, is a pit mine that’s very different from Short’s proposal.

Short’s operation has to have permits from the Missouri Fire Marshal and Missouri Department of Natural Resources and comply with regulations for blasting safety and environmental quality.

Siegrist said Short did offer to explain his project to the association board, but they decided not to agree to a meeting, so there might be additional information they had not received.

She said she talked to the Missouri Department of Transportation and that agency did not have any concern about Short’s quarrying damaging the interstate or other infrastructure.

However, Siegrist said, the duration of Short’s project, about 10 years, would be longer than MoDOTs construction, so isn’t a good comparison for her subdivision.

“We have questions whether or not this is good for the community,” Siegrist said. “There will be dust, the environment will be affected by this, we haven’t been told anything that will change this... it is what it is.”

The land reclamation is part of larger 400-acre vision Short has for Lee’s Summit’s gateway at View High Drive.

He’s bought land and is working on plans with Lee’s Summit and Kansas City for developing property there to include “Class A” office buildings, hotels, a youth soccer complex with perhaps 15 fields, retail and multifamily housing.

If reclaimed, the land farther east will be flat and ready to go in a later phase, Short said.

“On the one hand, we’re told we need a broader tax base, but on the other hand we’re told there’s not enough developable land,” Short said. “This allows more acres of space for commercial development, put into play in the key job corridor of I-470.”

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