Pierceville residents oppose the development of a sand quarry, citing large trucks, blowing sand

Meghan Flynn
Garden City Telegram
A community meeting was held in Pierceville Wednesday for members of the community to discuss attending the Finney County Board of Zoning Appeals meeting next Wednesday to dissuade the board from approving a conditional use permit for Huber Sand in Pierceville.

Residents of Pierceville Township spoke against the development of a sand quarry run by Huber Sand in Pierceville at the June 7 Finney County Commission meeting. 

A Board of Zoning Appeals meeting is being held on June 16 at 9 a.m. at Garden City Hall in Commission Chambers as Huber Sand has filed an application for a conditional use permit to run a sand gravel quarry in Pierceville. 

The land is currently zoned as "A" Agricultural and is generally located at South Main Street and East Avenue D. The property straddles the Finney County and Gray County line. 

Traffic, large vehicles through neighborhoods concern residents

Pierceville resident Dionisio Garcia expressed concern about a quarry being developed there, one reason being an increase in traffic, making it unsafe for his children, and that the sand trucks would be driving on city streets. 

"We have to follow city guidelines and if you see a semi in your neighborhood it's not allowed, there's truck routes," he said. "We watch out for our kids but there's no reason for a semi to be on a city road. There's truck routes for that reason, they shouldn't be going down our neighborhoods."  

It's unsafe to have the large, fast-moving vehicles go down city streets where children play, Garcia said.

"Kids aren't safe, my kids aren't safe, they can't play outside," he said. "We saw a couple trucks about hit my kids." 

Residents concerned with road construction on a conditional permit 

County Commissioner Lon Pishny said Huber Sand has already begun building a road, even though their conditional use permit has not yet been approved by Finney County. 

"They have not received their permits yet to do this mining and then they started building the road, so it's not just the Gray County question, we've got an 'are they getting the cart ahead of the horse' question as far as permits and that kind of thing," he said. 

Pierceville resident Jenna Paris-Dowler said Huber began digging on the Finney County side earlier and it took three days to get somebody from the county out there to stop them.

Aleecya Charles, a planner with Garden City Department of Planning and Zoning, which also responsible for enforcing zoning regulations in Finney County, said Huber Sand has already been granted a conditional use permit in Gray County and they have a state license to dig there.

A stop-work order was issued to Huber Sand, Charles said.  

"They do have on the Gray County side a state license to dig on that side, and we did let them know that if they are going to be digging it can't be on the Finney County side," she said.

Pishny's dismayed with how the zoning process is not being followed, and it's why he encouraged them to come to the meeting to debrief the rest of the County Commission.

"(Pireceville residents) are not asking us to do anything specific today, but they want to alert us to the fact that the process is flawed and the permits have not been issued," he said. "It's happened with other things that have gone on in our county before, that there's been activity before a permit is issued with the assumption or presumption that it's going to be approved."

Residents wonder if blowing sand will cause respiratory issues for humans and animals

Blowing sand was another issue voiced at the Commission meeting and at a community meeting held by Pierceville residents Wednesday. 

At the Pierceville community meeting, resident Laura Ryman said when Huber Sand was digging there was a brownout over the highway that was "insane."

"When the wind blows out of the south, which it is 95% of the time, that was dangerous," she said. "I just sat there at my kitchen window watching the whole highway get browned out, and they were just doing a test pit."

Additionally, the blowing sand, especially silica sand, can also cause respiratory issues for both people and animals, Ryman said. 

Paris-Dowler agrees that the blowing will be a problem, it's already a problem when the farmers are out harvesting, but it's not all the time. 

"Vets are going to give me information about how it's going to affect my animals. We got four horses standing out there," she said. "Have (any of) you had to post a cow after it's done nothing but breathe dirt? What it does to their lungs? Why should I have to move? I didn't decide to move next to a sandpit. I should not have to move to protect my kids because they also ride their bikes on the back part of our property."

The proposed sand quarry location touches the back of Paris-Dowler's property line.  

Zack Irwin of Pierceville said if the quarry is approved to operate in Finney County it will be "dirt all day," from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

"We understand living out there there's harvest, it happens, it's part of our life, but it's only a month to a month and a half long and it's gone and then it comes back around," he said. "This will be 10 years of eating dirt and nobody wants to live through that."

Residents are concerned about groundwater levels 

Residents also expressed worry at both meetings on who the quarry could affect groundwater levels.  

Irwin said at the community meeting that he has already contacted the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and they informed him that they cannot do anything unless Huber breaks the water table at 66 ft., then they have to apply for permits. 

"Basically they said if they break water they have to halt all production and apply for a permit," he said. 

Paris-Dowler said the water levels are a big concern as property owners in Pierceville have to pay for their own water wells.

"The city's not going to come in there and pay for our water wells whenever our water drops," she said. "It comes out of our pocket and it's going to drop."