By Mallory Ragon of the Tribune
The city council suspended its rule to adjourn by 11:00 p.m. in order to vote on the special use permit application for a rock reclamation project at the northwest corner of the Interstate-470 and Pryor Road interchange. The council voted in favor of the application 6-2, with Councilmembers Brian Whitley and Kathy Hofmann voting against.
The application was submitted by The Family Ranch, LLC and the land in question is a mining operation that closed in the 1980s. The Family Ranch, LLC intends to extract the rock there, crush and sell it as gravel, and prepare the land for future development.
The special use permit will be for a period of 10 years. The Family Ranch has already been granted the other permits from various state and federal agencies needed for other aspects of the project, including blasting, air pollution, and land disturbance for the first phase.
"This will not injure, but will enhance, economic vitality in the area," Christine Bushyhead said. Bushyhead, of Mitchell, Kristl & Lieber, represented the project team and gave the presentation to the city council.
Many spoke during the public hearing session to suggest that the possible economic value of preparing the land for development was not enough to outweigh the safety, environmental, and cosmetic risks of such a project.
There was a lot of back-and-forth about the safety of the mine itself: in its current state, during the proposed reclamation, and after the project is complete. Many of the comments from the applicant indicated that the mine is in no shape to be left as-is.
"From an engineering perspective," Brian Linnan, geotechnical engineer for URS Corporation said, "no road should be there. No House should be there. That’s a bad place to be; get the hell out of there."
Because of the undermining activity of the past, some areas of the land have almost no overburden protecting the roads and houses in the area from possible collapse.
Concerns initially brought up at the first public hearing during a June meeting of the planning commission resurfaced, including dust suppression, blasting noise and vibration, truck traffic, and the structural integrity of existing homes and business located on or adjacent to the mine. Several members of the Bent Tree Bluffs community and homeowners association were present to voice their concerns about how blasting might cause damage, pollution, or other problems on the other side of I-470. Since the neighborhood is more than 185 feet outside the perimeter of the land in question, they are not required by law to be notified of any developments above the mine. But they have been sure to have a presence at both public hearings to express concerns about possible side effects.
Questions about the timeline of development were also a focus. The applicant noted that though the project is estimated to take ten years or more, the city would not need to wait until total completion to begin accepting development applications. As the project moves east into the phase two zone, for instance, the city could begin developing phase one.
Many of the present public weren’t ready to give up their skepticism.
"They’re here for a profit," Lee’s Summit resident Jim Tosser said. "They’re not here to help Lee’s Summit. They’re gonna grind up that rock and sell it. They’re not gonna build a thing."
But after an hour-long presentation from the applicant, an hour of council question-and-answer, and over and hour and a half of public commentary, the final answers the applicant provided seemed to satisfy most of the councilmembers. The application was approved with some modifications, including requirements for a predevelopment plan five years into the project, blasting dates to be publicly announced, and seismographic measurements (both north and south of 470) to be viewable in real-time online.
Even with commercial development likely five or more years off, the council sees this as an opportunity to maximize limited development opportunities in Lee’s Summit in order to promote economic growth.
This concluded the longest city council meeting on record at 5 hours and 7 minutes.