Finney County Board of Zoning Appeals tables Huber Sand conditional use permit application

Meghan Flynn
Garden City Telegram
The Garden City Commission chambers was standing room only Wednesday for the Finney County Board of Zoning Appeals meeting. The board was discussing issuing a conditional use permit for Huber Sand Inc., in Pierceville.

The Garden City Commission chambers were standing-room-only Wednesday as the Finney County Board of Zoning Appeals discussed issuing a conditional use permit to Huber Sand Inc. to operate a sand and gravel quarry at Pierceville. 

Pierceville community members voiced their concerns about a sand pit operating right next to the town.

A decision on the permit was tabled until the BZA's next meeting. 

The proposed sand pit straddles the Finney County and Gray County line. 

Randy Wacker, COO of Huber Sand Inc. said the mining would begin in Gray County, in the southeast corner, and move toward Pierceville, however it won't be anywhere near Pierceville for 10 to 20 years. 

"We are combining both pits, Gray County and Finney County, into one, that is what we call one pit, so that will be today," he said. 

Wacker said they are in the process of building a road to access Main Street in Pierceville, and they already have a well and power in the middle of the property where they will have the crushing plant. 

"That plant will generate some dust, we will have water on that plant to control the dust. We will have a water truck going up and down this road daily if the dust is out there," he said. " We are governed by the state for the dust. If there's a problem with the dust the state will come out and monitor as long as we're within the limits."

The mine is a dry mine, Wacker said; they do not drill with water and won't go to the water table. When they start a hole they'll put some sand plants in the hole, which will probably be 100 feet deep. 

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

"We'll dig off the overburden, that overburden will be set on the side of that ... When we start process that gravel and the sand in that hole we will take the good sand, we'll take the rock out of that hole, it will be oversized," he said. "The waste sand, what we call waste sand, will go back in that hole, that dirt will go back on top. As we dig that hole we will keep moving, just like we do at our other plants, we just fill in behind us."

Pierceville residents voiced concern over the wear and tear on Main Street due to the heavy trucks as well as the safety of area children with the increased number of heavy trucks coming down a city street. 

Robin Huber, owner and president of Huber Sand, said they will probably move between 30 to 100 trucks down the town's Main Street daily. 

Finney County Board of Zoning appeals members Leonard Hitz, back left, Ronald Leiker, back center, and Vicki German, back right, sit at the front of the meeting room with interim Planning Department director Trent Maxwell, left, and planner Aleecya Charles, right, listen to public comments Wednesday during a regular meeting.

Dave Jones, a Finney County commissioner who used to work for the Finney County Road and Bridge Department, said Pierceville's Main Street isn't thick enough to handle the wear and tear from the heavy and and gravel trucks. 

"It is typical of an asphalt or black top county road, in somewhere probably 6 or 7 inches of asphalt on it, designed for farm to market operations, not a full-time, 50-100 heavy trucks coming out and turning on it going into town," he said. "A road built out of that material to support 85,500 pounds generally is at least 10 inches (deep) if not more, frequently 12 inches thick in asphalt, that road is not. As you're considering, consider the wear and tear please on that county road."

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Zack Irwin of Pierceville voiced concern over the roads. 

"Running on Main St., there's not as much truck traffic as everybody keeps saying unless something for harvest – silage trucks, which we do need somebody to maintain the speed, those guys come through there, nobody cares. We got a sign that says 30 mph, they do 50 mph, so we have to deal with that," he said. "Are they going to have their guys, they can't enforce what their guys do once they get on the pavement?"

Laura Ryman, of Pierceville, voiced concern over the blowing sand and dirt due to the mining operations.

Ryman said, while she lives north of Highway 50, the sand from the test pit Huber dug browned out the highway, which raises concerns about air quality.

"With the dirt and the dust and the crushing of the gravel, the silica dust in the air is poisonous," she said. "Anyone who has horses, cows, chickens, any of the livestock that we have out there, that's going to affect them, it's going to kill them."

Ryman said the mining will have an effect on the respiratory health of anyone who lives in the area.

"It's going to kill our animals, it's going to affect our children, the health of our families as far as respiratory issues, everything else that we're going to have to deal with by having that right there," she said. 

Lon Pishny, another Finney County commissioner, said he has experience with a business having a conditional use permit next to a town. He lives in Towns Riverview and the subdivision is near TP&L, who has a conditional use permit. 

Pishny said the BZA can put requirements on the conditional use permit.

Some of the requirements on the TP&L permit included putting up a chain link fence, windscreen and planting trees, and that the train engines that bring in the wind turbine blades could not idle near the residences, Pishny said. However, he said now they are having some difficulty to get TP&L to adhere to the requirements and there have been code violations and inspections in regard to that.

"My point is though you can put those things into the conditional use permit, you can have the applicant fence around the community, you can have the applicant plant trees or whatever, because in your conditional use permit code," he said. 

Pishny also read a letter from an unnamed Finney County resident who has had a history in dealing with a sand pit near their residence. 

The letter stated that the Pierceville residents' concerns about blowing sand are accurate and serious and should not be ignored. 

"Our lawn and yard are always covered by sand, it is difficult to grow grass and a garden. The window frames and doorways of our house are always filled with a very fine sand," they said. "The amount of truck traffic will also keep the dust and sand floating and the roads will suffer ... The sand does blow even when there is no immediate mining. So take the resident's concern seriously."