Residents Push Back Against Proposed Gravel Mining Operation
Sharon Twp residents have strengthened their resolve in battling a proposed gravel mine.
The township’s Planning Commission held a public hearing on Feb. 15 at the Sharon UMC Fellowship Hall to hear people voice their thoughts on the serious consequences the mine could create.
In February 2021, Stoneco of Michigan submitted a special land use application to Sharon Twp for a gravel mine. The gravel pit is proposed for 400 acres of farmland purchased by Stoneco at 19024 Pleasant Lake Road, approximately one mile west of M52.
In the multi-step process to open a gravel pit, Stoneco had first to prove a need for a mining operation, which it did. In June 2022, the township board found that Stoneco had established a “low to moderate need” for the aggregate materials on Pleasant Lake Road.
Now, the second phase has just begun, in which Stoneco must prove the mining operation will not result in very serious consequences. After the gravel company’s approximately 850-page application was deemed complete, the planning commission was required to conduct a public hearing.
Consultant for Sharon Twp, Megan Masson-Minock of Carlisle-Wortman Assoc., was in attendance and explained the standards for very serious consequences as having an impact on:
- Existing land uses, specifically health, safety, and welfare.
- Property values in the vicinity and along the haul route.
- Pedestrian traffic safety, particularly for children, seniors, and handicapped.
- Health, safety, and welfare interests, including economic development, character and features of the community, planning and zoning for the community, interference with the use of adjacent land, and limitations on the use and enjoyment of property in the vicinity.
Masson-Minock explained the final standard is for the planning commission and township board to balance the “low to moderate need” established in the first phase of the process with the impacts of the mining operation.
“Since the township board found that it was a low to moderate need, the very serious consequences and the amount of consequences the township can be expected to bear is lower than if it had been found it was a high need,” explained Masson-Minock.
The Sharon Preservation Society has been fighting hard against the proposed mine. Society President Barbara Schmid was the first to speak. Sixteen residents had ceded their three-minute speaking allowance to the society giving it an extra 48 minutes to present their case.
Schmid immediately brought into question the reliability of Stoneco’s application. “This is not to say the data isn’t accurate. However, in a number of circumstances, the data that was provided with the application is either incomplete, irrelevant, or inconclusive.”
Schmid and several colleagues countered Stoneco’s data and methodology by pointing out what they believed to be glaring flaws and presenting more accurate data and studies.
“But then finally, the cumulative effect of the numerous safety, health, and welfare interests,” said Schmid. “There are a number of individual areas in which very serious consequences possible or likely. “So, we have to recognize the cumulative effect of all of these consequences will increase the overall harm to the township and its residents.”
Others in the audience queued up to speak.
One resident living 1/4 mile away from the proposed site stated, “I'm personally really angry that this happened. I moved to Sharon township to farm. I ran a farm for eight years. I care passionately about agriculture…There will be serious consequences to a critical natural resource, which I haven't heard mentioned specifically tonight—prime agricultural soils. Just in general, agriculture is really important to Michigan.”
Silica dust in the air was a concern for many of the speakers.
“It is well known as anyone who has driven down a pleasant Lake Road in the winter that there is a very strong wind tunnel down that area, running from both north to south and south to north depending on how the weather is going. So, dust is a serious concern, especially because then runs the length of the suggested mine on both sides.”
My concern is with the silica or one of my concerns. And we all heard how the wind blows in our area. My concern is that the silica would blow down on all of our schools. They aren't in our township, but they serve all of our kids.”
Other speakers joined the Preservation Society in taking Stoneco’s data to task.
“I feel the analysis is insufficient for real-life conditions. I do want to say that I understand M52 is a minor arterial route that is controlled by MDOT. The analysis by Midwest Consulting suggests that on a quote, ‘typical day the site is expected to generate approximately 150 to 175 two-way truck trips.’ The client anticipates that there will be three to four very busy days in the year where the site may generate as many as 300 to 330 two-way truck trips. The analysis was conducted over only one 24-hour period. I feel that's grossly inadequate.”
“Just the inconsistency of the report makes me wonder about the methods of study Stoneco is producing as well as the validity of much of their data.”
Citizens spoke about their concern for the disruption of their rural environment.
“I work in Trauma Recovery Services, and the clients that I see have post-traumatic stress disorder. These people require a quiet, peaceful, and peaceful environment in order to help them heal. When I was looking for the right place to purchase for my home and business, I was very careful in selecting a place that would be in a beautiful, peaceful, and safe setting in nature that would be of the most benefit to these people and myself. I've worked hard for the last ten years to establish and create the ideal environment for people to help them on their healing journey.”
One mother passionately spoke with her son with special needs at her side.
“After spending much time searching for our perfect home, it is heart racing, heartbreaking to face the possibility of losing our quality of life or beginning our search all over again with an inability to recoup our investment where we're at. Moving to Sharon township has been a blessing to our family.”
One of the last speakers asked, “We want to see what are you offering for us? You want to take from us. What are you going to give back to us?”
As for the next steps to be taken now that the public hearing has been held, the Sharon Preservation Society states, “After the Planning Commission has reviewed all input from the applicant, the public and township consultants, they will deliberate and decide upon a recommendation to the Township Board to approve, approve with conditions, or deny the application. That recommendation will be made at a later meeting of the Planning Commission, the date of which will be posted on the township website.”