Finney County BZA approves Huber Sand conditional use permit
Huber Sand was granted a conditional use permit to operate a sand and gravel quarry, next to the town of Pierceville, at the Finney County Board of Zoning Appeals meeting Wednesday.
It was granted with a 2-1 vote, with board member Vicki Germann dissenting.
The CUP for Huber Sand was previously discussed at the BZA'a June 16 meeting, but was tabled over concerns voiced by Pierceville residents about opening a sand mine next to the town and additional information given to the BZA by the residents.
Some of the concerns raised at the last meeting were decreased property values, air quality, blowing sand due to mining operations, safety of children, light and sound pollution and road usage by the gravel trucks on Main Street in Pierceville.
The CUP was granted with the conditions including: a 150 ft. setback from the property line next to Pierceville; construction of a 6 ft. chain-link fence with barbed wire on top be erected along the property line next to Pierceville; planting and maintenance of trees and other vegetation along the fence to help with dust control; maintaining the property's access road; keeping equipment to the southeast corner of the property; and exempting the northwest corner, or about 15-20 acres, near Pierceville from the conditional use permit.
Leonard Hitz, BZA member, said it's good to have stipulations in the CUP, but they're only as good if they are enforced, referencing the stipulations put into TP&L's CUP.
"A lot of those conditions that we set out for TP&L have not been fully adhered to," he said. "In my opinion, what we decide here, those conditional use permit says conditions and the conditions we put has to have some enforcement in it."
Finney County Commissioner Lon Pishny agreed that enforcement is key to making sure the stipulations are followed.
"We've tried to hold their feet to the fire with TP&L ... by doing inspections and making calls and so forth, but Leonard it correct, what you put in as stipulations in the conditional use permit are only as good as they can be enforced," he said.
Germann voted against granting the CUP, stating that in her opinion Huber Sand doesn't meet doesn't meet all of the BZA's criteria to get the permit, that there are still too many questions.
Specifically, Germann said she doesn't believe opening a sand mine next to Pierceville will conserve property values.
"As a realtor I do understand that, ultimately how it will effect property values, but in my mind I have to questions whether these properties will be negatively effected," she said.
Additionally Huber Sand knew they were purchasing an agricultural piece of land, Germann said.
"I know that you (Huber Sand) obviously have to keep mining sand or you don't have a business, but I just feel like perhaps some further investigation should have been done, a conditional use permit probably should have been achieved before the purchase was made, so that's what had really created the challenge," she said. " I know that's not always possible, but it's something as a realtor I make sure before someone closes a deal, that it's on a property that they are going to be able to use the land as they desire – that's number one."
Germann also referenced policing as a reason why she opposed granting the CUP.
"Conditional use permits are complaint driven, the only way that they're going to be enforced is if you complain to the proper authorities about it, that's how conditional use permits work," she said. "That apparently is a problem, in Pierceville especially."
Hitz said the criteria Germann referenced are objectionable, that there's two sides to every one.
"I don't think we can determine that, I don't think that's within our ability to determine that. You can say it's going to ... hurt the property value, you don't know that," he said. " If Huber Sand and the people of Pierceville got together and worked together they might find out that Huber Sand has helped their property values by coming in and helping them do some things. I can't go down through here and say any one of these is a reason not to issue the permit."
Butch Lieker, also a BZA member, said that if everything is adhered to things can work.
"I'm getting the feeling that if all of those were adhered to, and I believe Huber is more than willing to address every one of these, that there could be an agreement reached and they're all reasonable, I think everybody's willing," he said.
Randy Wacker, COO of Huber Sands, Inc., said they are not coming to town to hurt.
"We'll do everything we can to keep within our regulations," he said. "I can spend millions of dollars and try and make everybody happy, but I'm not going to make everybody happy. I will be a good neighbor, you will not see trash laying around, you won't see old equipment, broke down and just set off to the side, you don't see piles of metal, you're not going to see that eyesore, we're going to fill-in as we go."