LS council member suggests temporary halt for quarry project

rpulley@lsjournal.comJanuary 15, 2014 

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    Acres at the northwest corner of Pryor Road and Interstate 470 is the area where Family Ranch proposes to reclaim an undermined area by quarrying rock from the roof and establishing new ground level.

Opponents of quarrying to reclaim an undermined area in Lee’s Summit continue to press for the city to stop that plan.

At the City Council’s public comments period at its Jan. 9 meeting, Charles Spencer, a geologist representing some property owners adjacent to the site, again said information regarding the mine conditions is insufficient.

Terracon, an engineering consultant for the city, recently delivered a draft report on the project known as Family Ranch. It recommended monitoring roads in the area for possible collapse or other options, even filling the mine under or near roads.

In a prepared response regarding the report, the city said Jan. 14 it is communicating with Terracon regarding priority of the options and what conditions would dictate the necessity of each.

“Once those issues are clarified, the city will be able to complete a plan for implementation of the appropriate recommendations,” the statement said.

Spencer said Jan. 9 that Terracon’s report doesn’t give city officials all the information needed, because it’s not a geotechnical study of the mine’s stability.

He criticizes the city for not requiring a detailed mining plan or a final grading plan from Family Ranch, which plans to quarry rock on 70 acres in the area, to insure any backfilled area could support buildings for future development.

He said his clients have observed jack hammering of rock on the mine site that causes a low-frequency fall in a range more likely to cause damage.

Councilman Brian Whitley, who voted against a special-use permit for Family Ranch, asked the rest of the council to consider a “stay” on the project. Colleague David Mosby said that was an interesting idea.

“I don’t know if we’re there yet,” he said.

Council member Kathy Hofmann, who also had voted against the project, noted that when the project was earlier considered by the council, its representatives said it had necessary state permits when it did not.

But Whitley didn’t make a formal motion for a stay, so the council didn’t take a vote.

Family Ranch representatives said when they first contacted the state, they were initially told no permits were needed, but that in subsequent talks the Missouri Department of Natural Resources decided permits were required.

Lee’s Summit businessman Flip Short wants to remove rock remaining in the mine’s roof on his property, selling the limestone while lowering the ground level. The intent is to end with a stable base for development on the site, he says.

Short contends the small-scale mine will only be open on several acres at a time and won’t be noticeable from the highway.

He is in the process of obtaining a state permit through the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, with a comment period ending Jan. 18.

Opponents question whether his plan is safe, practical or won’t be a nuisance.

Terracon had reviewed earlier reports on the property and made a visual inspection of the area. The reports by USR have raised questions about the mine’s stability, based on visual assessments, and recommending against building structures on the surface.

Council member Bob Johnson said he’s had discussions with Land Reclamation Commission and asked Spencer who has jurisdiction over the project. Spencer opined that the city has control of public safety, while the MDNR has jurisdiction over the state permit.

Councilman Derek Holland asked Spencer if mine is now unstable and if he would build on it.

“I don’t know,” Spenser said. He noted the Terracon report was mostly a literature review, as was an earlier studies by URS, with engineers making some visual observations of conditions.

He said the city lacks a geotechnical study that drills holes, makes a survey of the mine and roof quality, taking samples or performs tests so officials can make an informed decision.

Spencer said that area could be reclaimed, but in nearly all such cases the undermined area is under one ownership. The patchwork of owners who might be affected makes this situation more complex.

He said problems with mine roof collapsing might be more widespread or confined to a particular valley or fault.

Spencer said if there is mining on the site there could be unsafe conditions.

“You’re endangering your own people,” Spencer said. “There is just insufficient data ... for the best use or best way to approach using this site.”

The council briefly discussed preparatory work Family Ranch is doing on the site to build a pad for rock crushing.

“I’ve heard some folks say it is mining, I’ve heard from some it’s not mining,” Whitley said.

Council member Ed Cockrell said it was his understanding from an email that Family Ranch was only moving earth.

“They’re pounding on rock,” City Manager Steve Arbo responded. “Whether they’re mining or not that’s the $64,000 question.”

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