Lakeville Planning Commission recommends 24-hour gravel mining proposal

Commission recommends City Council include restrictions on operations

Blair Bury, president of Midwest Asphalt Corp., addresses the Lakeville Planning Commission Aug. 22. (photo by Laura Adelmann)
Blair Bury, president of Midwest Asphalt Corp., addresses the Lakeville Planning Commission Aug. 22. (photo by Laura Adelmann)

A Lakeville gravel mining operation on Aug. 22 cleared the first hurdle toward 24-hour operations, 7 days per week, but with activity-limiting restrictions.

The Lakeville City Council will consider the issue at its Sept. 3 meeting at 7 p.m. in City Hall.

Midwest Asphalt Corporation, located on the shores of Lake Marion off Kenrick Avenue near 195th Street, applied to extend its operating hours because Twin Cities road construction projects are occurring overnights and on weekends.

Neighbors opposed the request, citing numerous concerns including noise, dust, traffic, health, pollution and lighting.

A letter dated the day of the meeting from attorney Michael D. Klemm with the Dougherty Molenda law firm outlined neighbors’ objections to the request and urged denial of the request, but stopped short of threatening legal action.

After the Planning Commission meeting, residents said they were disappointed, but were not sure if they were going to take legal action to try to stop the expanded mining hours.

Under the Planning Commission’s recommendation, Midwest Asphalt would be allowed to continue its full operations weekdays from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

During nights and weekends, work would be restricted to exporting gravel and importing and spreading fill per the site’s reclamation plan.

Rock crushing would not be allowed Saturdays or Sundays.

The company would also be banned from operating a compactor over the fill material on the weekends.

Midwest Asphalt President Blair Bury said he needs the additional hours to compete for projects, and noted the company would run extended hours only as jobs require.

He said they will employ one-way haul patterns to avoid trucks using backup alarms, use white-noise alarms on all equipment and work to minimize noises like slamming dump gates or engine braking.

“We’ll make every effort that we can to not be a nuisance,” Bury said. “I know gravel operations, regardless of what we do, will be a nuisance to some people just because of the nature of what we do.”

He added additional operating hours could allow them to complete mining and restore the site sooner than 2021 as the permit now indicates.

The city ultimately plans for some of the 66-acre property to become residential housing lots or park land.

Planning Commission Member Bob Boerschel abstained from discussing and voting on the issue because his wife is an attorney with the Dogherty Molenda law firm.

In an email to Sun Thisweek, Boerschel said he only saw the attorney’s letter, which was dated Aug. 22, about a minute before the meeting was to begin and briefly consulted with City Attorney Roger Knutson regarding the situation.

“While it didn’t appear to be a conflict, I decided to exercise an abundance of caution and abstain to eliminate any perception that a conflict may exist,” he said in the email.

Commissioners Gerry Grenz and Linda Maguire voted against the recommendation because of numerous concerns raised by Lake Marion property owners.

Grenz said he would only support loading and dumping activities to operate on a 24-hour, seven day per-week basis, not site reclamation work.

“My goal is to minimize the overnight noise,” he said. And the less machines that are run overnight, the less noise there is.”

Maguire said all of the negative consequences to the neighbors outweigh any benefits that could be derived by extensive operating hours.

Commissioner Karl Drotning said the issue left him conflicted because he understood residents’ right to quiet enjoyment on evenings and weekends, but also wanted to allow businesses opportunities to operate.

Neighbor John Osborne raised concerns about mining dust that can contain crystalline silica, a common by-product of gravel pits, rock crushing and mining operations.

In a letter to the Planning Commission, Osborne said crystalline silica can cause Silicosis, a non-curable disease that can cause or exacerbate respiratory problems and illnesses like asthma, coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath.

Bury said silica is an issue with frac sand operations or with quartz mining.

“We’re not either of these,” he said, adding that they monitor conditions and comply with mining safety guidelines.

Undaunted, Osborne said in an interview he remains concerned about the potential for health problems related to dust and is “vehemently opposed” to the mine operating as “a 24/7 operation,”

Tom Bachinski said he lives across the lake from the gravel mining, and frequently contends with dust from the work.

He said neighbors have medical issues including allergies, special needs and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease that are affected by the dust.

“I find it very hard to believe that the city of Lakeville would really open itself up to the liability of a health issue like that,” he said.

Bachinski also cited concerns about decreasing property values, noise and light pollution.

“Who here wants me to come over to their house tonight at 3 a.m. and bang the tailgate of a dump truck?” he asked. “You wouldn’t vote for it in your neighborhood, or to have it on your street, so don’t vote for it in our neighborhood.”