Jefferson County residents fight gravel mine plan

Sunday, September 5, 2010 | 4:12 p.m. CDT

HOUSE SPRINGS — A plan to open a gravel and sand mine in eastern Missouri has angered some area residents, who say it would hurt their property values and create too much noise.

About 400 people have signed a petition contesting the plans of John Harness III and his sister, Krista Harness, to rezone 28 acres in Jefferson County to allow them to recover and process sand and gravel.

The Jefferson County Council will meet Tuesday and is expected to vote on the rezoning plan. Last month, the county's planning and zoning commission voted unanimously to recommend the Harnesses' request.

It will be up to County Council members Chuck Banks, Ed Kemp and Pat Lamping to make the decision. All three told The St. Louis Post-Dispatch they would wait until hearing the evidence Tuesday before deciding how to vote.

Harness, who lives across from the proposed site, said the mine would have little effect on neighbors. The land has been in his family for more than a century and has been used as a top soil operation. But now the soil is almost gone.

Harness said no blasting or rock crushing would be done at the site and that the only noise would be from trucks and machines running during the day. Sand and gravel would be mined and cleaned at the site, then hauled away. He also said a drainage system on the property would ensure that no dirty water from the cleaning process ends up in the nearby Big River.

He expects the mining to last about 15 years. After that, he said, the family would consider donating the land to the parks department.

But resident Linda Schroeder, who owns Schroeder Sod Farm with her husband, Gil, says the mine "doesn't fit the area."

She has filled six posterboards with photos of area houses, ranging from new construction to remodeled homes dating to the late 1800s. She plans to bring them the county council meeting.

Liz Tibbets, a retired teacher, said kids playing at a nearby sports complex would have no problems scaling a fence Harness plans to install around the mine.

She was one of about 20 neighbors who gathered at Schroeder's house Thursday to speak against the project.

Norm Huch, whose land borders the mine site, said he moved to the area three years ago for the quiet, picturesque surroundings.

"It's not anything of what I dreamed of having anywhere near my house," he said.


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