By Leilani Haywood
Lee’s Summit residents oppose the Missouri Department of Natural Resources decision to approve a permit request from Star Excavation allowing it to use explosives until 2034 in a land reclamation project adjacent to their property. The permit change was granted because the department doesn’t have jurisdiction over the concerns raised by the residents about the blasting, according to a letter by Larry Lehman, staff director for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.
Sam Mahlstadt, vice president of the Bent Tree Bluffs Homeowners Association, said the HOA opposed DNR’s decision. “BTB is opposed to the DNR’ s decision and is seeking options via a city ordinance to prevent the use of explosives,” Mahlstadt said in an email to the LS Tribune. “Representing BTB, I have requested a meeting with the mayor, our city council rep, the city attorney, and others through the city manager, Stephen Arbo. Mr. Arbo has agreed to schedule a meeting but has yet to have one scheduled.” At press time, Arbo did not respond to the Tribune’s inquiry about the meeting request.
Kathy Gravitt, a homeowner who lives near the mine said, “I am disappointed with the DNR’s decision, although, I expected as such. The real problem is with the City of Lee’s Summit when they issued the ordinance for rock reclamation 4 years ago. The city did not protect their citizens that they are supposed to serve.” Kenny Gerdis owns 11 acres near the mine. He said. “It’s going to do more damage to the property then what they are doing now. As far as I’m concerned this tearing the value of our property down.”
Another homeowner, Cindy Hammer said, “I sadly expected the DNR ruling. Bottom line it’s unfair. No one should be able to buy land, dig and blow up rock close to where people live for one person’s gain or greed. Again, the human element and emotional toll this is causing on the residents is not being taken into consideration by anyone. Flip Short told me personally he knew the right thing to do was to buy these residents out. To date, he still has not done that. It is unjust and just plain wrong. If the member of the Lee’s Summit City Council or DNR wouldn’t want to live under these conditions, why is it ok for these residents? It is not ok and it breaks my heart.”
Lehman said in the letter to the owner of Star Excavation, Flip Short, dated May 9, 2018, “The director may address environmental issues within the jurisdiction of the Department of Natural Resources such as air and water pollution concerns produced at the mine site, The director does not have jurisdiction to address public concerns commonly raised during the review of an application for industrial mineral mining activity such as blasting, noise, or hours of operation. As staff director, I did consider all public comments in making a decision to remove or not remove the condition of ‘No Use of Explosives” and to extend the date of mine operation until the year 2034 as required at 444.773.1 RSMo.”
When asked about the time frame that Star Excavation planned to use explosives, Christine Bushyhead, an attorney for Star Excavation at press time said, “I followed up with the Star Excavation team and they are working on next steps and should have more information to share next week.”
Scott Blankenship, owner of Green Living Properties at 2440 Lowenstein Drive in Lee’s Summit, hired Charles Spencer to conduct a geological survey of the affected property. Spencer agreed that he didn’t think DNR could prevent the blasting activity. “I expected the decision we got,” he said. “DNR is only responsible for surface water, air and runoff. They could have made added some conditions for monitoring the blasting but it they have no statutory cover on this.”
Spencer said that the City of Lee’s Summit is the only recourse the residents have to require monitoring of the blasting activity for their property. “The City of Lee’s Summit has failed miserably because they already approved the permit but put no requirements for monitoring the blasting activity. There is no requirement unless the property owners adjacent to the property ask the city to change the ordinance to add monitoring of the mine underneath their property.”
Spencer had sent a letter to former LS City Council Mayor Pro Tem Rob Binney on March 23, 2018 asking him to consider amending the ordinance. “Given that uncertainty, weaknesses in the provisions of the ordinance require that the Council needs to revisit its oversight requirements now that use of explosives will likely be allowed,” he wrote in his letter to Binney. Spencer said he never received a response to his letter.
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources held the hearing on March 23, 2018 at Legacy Touch in Lee’s Summit. The hearing was over three hours and packed with residents opposing the permit change. “These homeowners may have to get their own seismograph to monitor the blasting activity under their property,” said Spencer. Residents adversely affected by the decision have 30 days to appeal the decision and request developer Flip Short, the owner of Star Excavation LLC or Family Ranch LLC asked the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to change the special use permit granted on May 2, 2014 to allow explosives for the next 20 years to reclaim the mine for future development. Short is also the owner of Paragon Star LLC, a planned sports-park, shopping center and mixed use development off of I-470 and View High Drive.