County allows LaFarge to still mine North Pit

Permit extension granted

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— To the chagrin of those who would like to see the dust and noise go away, county commissioners on Monday night offered a lifeline to LaFarge Corp. to continue its north-side operations for another 32 months.

Commissioners approved an extension of LaFarge's special-use permit for its North Pit until May 1, 2004.

"That buys us a little time," LaFarge Plant Manager Bruce Daniel said.

The producer of sand, gravel and concrete is currently weighing its options as to how and where it might open a third gravel pit.

Commissioners, however, strongly agreed that their decision to extend LaFarge's permit did not hinge upon the company's future permit request.

"We did not decide in their favor based on the fact that they are going to ask for another permit," County Commissioner Dan Ellison said. "Our decision was based on the merits of the existing permit, but this at least gives them the opportunity to look at other places."

Commissioners won't be allowing any exceptions to the 2004 deadline, either.

"I'm going to be here in 2004, and there will be no renewal," Commissioner Doug Monger said later.

Reclamation of the mined area is expected by December 2004, but the state ultimately holds the permit and bond that guarantees the job will be done.

Reclamation efforts include contouring, topsoiling and reseeding the formerly mined areas.

This has commissioners a little concerned.

"We don't have any big stick to wield as far as cleanup goes," Monger said.

"We're at the mercy of the state."

Available gravel in the North Pit is expected to run out in a month, leaving only concrete and asphalt operations at the pit.

Supporters of the permit extension believe it is necessary to maintain the pit to encourage competition and fair prices in the market.

"There's the idea that we're much better off if we have two pits rather than one," he said. "We don't want to be contributing to a monopoly."

County planning staff told commissioners that keeping the North Pit open would help to proportion the pressure on area asphalt and concrete producers.

A few locals turned out to protest any continuation to the dust and noise.

"There are a lot of familiar faces who show up to these meetings," planning staffer Mary Alice Page-Allen said later. "These are the people who hear it and smell and see it, and they're tired of it."

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