By Kellen Olshefski

Correspondent

Town of Sugar Creek residents are banding together to oppose a rezone request and conditional use permit that would pave the way for a proposed gravel pit off of Highway H.

According to the Town of Sugar Creek Plan Commission agenda for the Thursday, Oct. 14 meeting, the proposed rezone request by Randy Johnson of Johnson Sand & Gravel calls for rezoning roughly 49 acres from A-1 prime agricultural to M-3 mineral extraction, with the conditional use permit for nonmetallic mining reclamation set to allow for sand and gravel extraction and reclamation, if allowed.

The rezone request originally called for about 92 acres and was tabled by the Walworth County Zoning Agency at its Sept. 16 meeting, as it had not yet received approval from the Town of Sugar Creek. That agenda named Sarah Cook of Millard Properties LLC, as the owner.

If approved at the Oct. 14 plan commission meeting, the rezone would appear on the Oct. 18 Town Board agenda and advance to the Walworth County Zoning Agency, which next meets Oct. 21.

According to local resident Lauri Paddock, Cook and Johnson are looking to create and operate a gravel pit north of Highway A and off of Highway H that would be named Millard Quarry, and, she said, many Town of Sugar Creek residents are not pleased.

Paddock said more than 150 people showed up to the Sept. 9 Town of Sugar Creek Plan Commission meeting to show their opposition to the gravel pit and more than 430 signatures had been added to a petition opposing it over the course of six days.

She said numerous residents voiced concerns at the Sept. 9 meeting, citing concerns over how a gravel mining operation would affect the water as well as general safety concerns.

“One hundred and fifty people showed up to that meeting and there’s 437 signatures,” she said. “That says a lot… that the people don’t want it in the area. They’re very concerned about the noise (and) they’re very concerned about the dust.”

According to Paddock, with so many gravel pits in the area, residents don’t understand why there needs to be another one.

She pointed out that Highway H has a curve on both ends of the entrance to the property and the gravel company said trucks would be making 30 to 50 trips each day from the property.

“I can’t begin to tell you how dangerous it is – not only for the residents (but also) for the school buses (and) law enforcement,” Paddock said. “It is just really dangerous.”

The gravel company had discussed adding lanes to Highway H to allow the trucks to merge into traffic, however, Paddock said with a 45 mph speed limit through the area where the curve is — which she said many people already don’t adhere to — it’s a “disaster in the making.”

Paddock said one of the residents who spoke at the Sept. 9 meeting was Mark Brower, who owns property adjacent to the proposed gravel pit. She said Brower shared a list of four reasons why the gravel pit should not be allowed, any of which he claimed should be sufficient for denying the rezone and conditional use permit.

Brower outlined those reasons in an email to Paddock, which was forwarded to the Elkhorn Independent.

According to Brower, guidelines in the Walworth County Farmland Preservation Policy require that proposed land use be compatible with remaining prime agricultural land in the vicinity, which he said this proposal fails to do.

Brower said while the Cooks have said sound dissipates over distance, the proposed gravel pit would come within 200 feet of his property and would generate unacceptable noise, especially as summer winds — which are predominantly south or southwest — would carry machinery sounds directly to his property. He also noted this would apply to dust from the operation as well.

In terms of traffic, Brower said the gravel pit doesn’t actually have its own driveway access to Highway H because it currently shares an easement with his lot that was designed for farming and residential use. In his email, Brower said he made it clear to the plan commission that he did not agree with the company’s plan for 30 to 50 gravel trucks a day subjecting the driveway to that level of commercial use.

In addition, Brower noted safety concerns about gravel trucks pulling out onto Highway H, going at a slow speed initially on a turn with limited visibility and already reduced speeds as a direct result of the visibility limitations.

Brower wrote that he had presented a letter from the real estate agent contracted for his land, which is for sale, but who also had been involved in the property acquired by the Cooks two years ago. According to Brower, the agent said the proposed gravel pit would decrease property value of not only his land, but neighboring properties as well.

The Cooks and gravel company representatives did attempt to ease residents’ concerns at the Sept. 9 meeting, including plans to add turn lanes for the trucks on Highway H and an explanation about sound dissipating over distance.

See future editions of the Elkhorn Independent and keep an eye on mywalworthcounty.com for updates as this story continues to develop.

 
 

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