Lee’s Summit City Council approves permit for rock quarrying at Pryor Road and Interstate 470

rpulley@lsjournal.comAugust 20, 2013 

After a lengthy public hearing, the Lee’s Summit City Council approved a special use permit to allow quarrying rock at the northwest corner of Pryor Road and Interstate-470.

The council voted 6-2 Thursday, Aug. 15. after several hours of testimony by experts representing Flip Short, a Lee’s Summit businessman, and by opponents who fear damage to their homes and quality of life.

Operation of an underground rock mine at the site ceased decades ago.

The land is unstable and not useable for building, Short says, and his proposal is to extract remaining rock from the ceiling of the mine, taking it down to bedrock. The operation would crush the rock and sell it. Then the land could become commercial or multifamily buildings.

Short has met with council members, given them tours of the site, and at Thursday’s meeting experts disputed fears of damage to other property.

His strategy was successful.

Councilmember Bob Johnson said he was walking in the mines on a tour when “all of the sudden I saw sunlight and I’m not going back in there.”

Council members Rob Binney and Allan Gray asked for some additional conditions, such as seismic monitoring and requiring a development plan for the reclaimed land within five years, and voted for the permit.

Council members Brian Whitley and Kathy Hofmann voted no. They had asked most questions about dust and safety of blasting.

Councilmember David Mosby voted after arriving at a late hour after most of the discussion, to cast his yes vote.

Rod Gravitt, a landowner who owns a home on ten acres next to the site, questioned Mosby after the meeting whether Mosby was qualified to vote.

Mosby said he had been out of town helping his daughter move and returned as soon as he could for an important vote.

Mosby said he had met with the developer, reviewed the Planning Commission meeting and met with homeowners, so had the necessary background.

City staff supported the application for a 10-year permit, while the Planning Commission had recommended denial.

Gravitt and other nearby landowners showed the council idyllic photographs of pasture and trees, and their homes, challenging Short’s description of the area as a “brown field.” They contend the mine is now stable, but Short’s plan could cause it to collapse.

Residents of subdivisions farther away expressed the same fears that vibrations would damage their homes. If the quarrying starts, they predict, their property values could fall because of dust or traffic.

Gravitt, a Lee’s Summit firefighter, testified how he’d worked years to build his dream home and made improvements on the property. He said he is close to retirement where he wants to enjoy his land. “How would you feel?” he asked the council.

Brian Linnan, a geotechnical engineer with URS Corporation of Overland Park, testified that the mines are already collapsing.

Linnan said he first inspected the mines in 2003, when developer John Ivey was contemplating a similar plan, called Quarry Hills, and the mines were unstable then. Ivey hadn’t taken his plans farther, and Short bought the property. Linnan said the mine’s condition is worse now.

He said he can’t predict the day or hour, but it will continue to decline then collapse, he predicted.

Gravitt and Scott Blankenship, who owns a business adjacent to the site, questioned if was the blasting would weaken the mine’s roof.

Blankenship said he hadn’t yet heard a plan for how their property would be protected.

He said the quarrying would leave a 35-foot-deep crater at the edge of his land.

Phillip Porter, president of the Heartland Chapter of the International Society of Explosives Engineers, testified that by choosing appropriate methods, blasting’s effects could be contained on site.

Opponents weren’t convinced.

“Our City Council dropped the ball,” Gravitt said after the meeting. “They’re supposed to protect us... I find it hard to believe the City Council did this.”

He said he’d continue to fight the quarrying by asking the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to deny Short permits.

“He’s got a lot of harder hoops to jump through,” Gravitt said.

Short’s group said the operation already has any other necessary permits and the city’s was the final step.

Opponents from Bent Tree Bluffs subdivision, with 600 homes on the south side of the interstate from the quarry, also said they fear vibrations from blasting to remove the rock could damage homes.

Carol Siegrist, homeowner’s association president, said dust and additional traffic of 50 to 60 trucks a day will be a nuisance and hazard.

Short’s team testified that Missouri regulations would be sufficient to protect the subdivisions. It noted the truck traffic would travel from the mining operation to Pryor Road then onto I-470, but not farther south on Pryor.

The debate went on with the sides battling with counterclaims.

Opponents suggested Short didn’t really want to prepare the area for development, but only wanted to mine the rock.

It was suggested that Short instead make the area ready for development by shoring up the mines by filling them with fly ash concrete, a material made with by-product from burning coal.

Linnan said it was technologically possible, but not economically feasible, because of the volume involved.

Christine Bushyhead, a lawyer representing Short, said the project would not cause problems because it would be on only 8 to 10 acres at a time.

“It will be open, reclaimed, finished off, open, filled, finished off,” she said.

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