Another hurdle must be cleared before quarrying rock at Pryor Road and Interstate 470 in Lee’s Summit can begin operation.
Officials of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources recently determined the project, known as The Family Ranch, will need a state permit for land-reclamation.
Flip Short, a Lee’s Summit businessman, plans to remove the limestone roof of an abandoned, underground rock mine that makes that land unsuitable for building.
He would sell the crushed rock and intends to develop commercial buildings on the site that would then be stable for foundations.
His team in September met with agency officials and sent it a letter arguing the project should be exempt.
A few nearby landowners and many more residents of the Bent Tree Bluffs subdivision, south of the site but across the interstate, oppose his plan for rock removal. They contend dust from the quarrying could be a nuisance or shock waves from blasting could damage homes.
Nearby owners fear that in the worst case quarrying could collapse the mine under their property.
Lee’s Summit’s City Council in August granted the project a special-use permit, despite the opposition, who has turned to the state to intervene.
In a letter to Short, Kevin Mohammadi, MDNR program director for land reclamation, said that because the plan is to sell rock, Short will need a state land-reclamation permit. Short can apply for a permit, Mohammadi wrote, or he has the option of appealing to the Missouri Land Reclamation Commission to plead for exemption.
Short said he is considering which will be his best option.
“We’ll continue to move forward and are enthusiastic about this project,” Short said in an interview.
He said he’s cooperating with the state and will look for its guidance on the quickest way to get work underway, and may apply for the permit, although his attorney thinks the permit is not required under the law.
Scott Blankenship, who owns a tree-care business that borders Short’s property, said MDNR’s response was: “If it quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.”
“It makes me feel better that someone is looking out for our safety concerns and taking it seriously,” Blankenship said in an email. “Our goal is to either have them do this project the correct way providing safety to everyone in this area or to let the area just be and we keep our land. We hope to stay, but are willing to hear other options if safety will be their number one concern.”
The legal debate is whether The Family Ranch meets the state’s idea of a surface mine.
As a condition of getting the city special-use permit, The Family Ranch is required to submit a preliminary development plan for development within five years.
Short’s team argues that the blasting, crushing and transport of rock is necessary to prepare the 70-acre site for future development, although critics are skeptical that will ever happen.
“The sale of any rock product is an incidental activity related to the reclamation of the currently un-developable condition of the undermined TFR property in preparation for subsequent construction,” wrote Christine Bushyhead, attorney for Short.
MDNR officials aren’t buying it.
“While site preparation work is generally excepted, such work becomes subject to the requirements of (The Land Reclamation Act) if the minerals removed from the site are subjected to crushing and commercial sale,” Mohammadi wrote.
He added that another firm, Damon Pursell Construction Company, in 1999 applied for its permit to conduct the exact same activity, about five miles west of Family Ranch on U.S. 71 at Rockridge Center.
Short says he won’t be deterred. He said redevelopment of the area is needed for a tax base to support Lee’s Summit city and schools.
“One way or another, we’ll get this done,” Short said. “It’s best for the city and homeowners too, they just don’t see it now.”