Mining Dilemma

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 8, 2008

City’s planning cites dilemma of mining

By Rupert Howell

A few days before Batesville board of mayor and aldermen reviewed a working draft of the 2030 General Development Plan, they voted Gravel to expad to allow Memphis Stone annd their aggregate operation into the city limits near Highway 35 south, much to the displeasure of nearby residents.

Aggregates are  primary ingredients in asphalt mix  while asphalt and gravel base materials are used in the construction of parking lots, highways, interstate and airport properties.  Memphis Stone and Gravel Company, along with their sister company, Lehman Roberts, has supplied and constructed a large portion of the infrastructure of West Tennessee and North Mississippi.

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Almost ironic is that the city’s working draft of the general development plan states, “… strip mining and resulting topographical disturbance of mined areas creates great difficulties for new development. Visually, these areas are not compatible with intensive commercial or residential development. Both active and inactive gravel mines create numerous nuisances for surrounding property owners and residents and should be taken into account in planning.”

Whether the city adopts the plan is premature, but the words are not lost on homeowners who live on Highway 35 south of the old compress building.

Bob Callihan has lived in the area most all of his life and lives on 2.5 acres in the home in which he was raised. The mining will come close to his property line on two sides. He says the noise of the gravel trucks begins at 5:30 a.m. He also says the closer he gets the more dust will get stirred.

He doesn’t have city services, other than police protection and street lights, and wonders what the city was thinking about allowing a gravel pit within the city limits.

Justice Court Judge Bill Joiner and his wife, Linda, have one of the nicer homes in the neighborhood and although he hasn’t had it appraised lately, he said, “If I was looking to buy a house like this I would look at the surrounding area.”

Joiner said that he has been in the city limits for 10 years and has yet to receive city services. He noted that he once called the police and had to convince the dispatcher that he was indeed in the city limits.

He along with Scott Harrison went to the city board in protest of the request the conditional use permit that would allow for the mining of gravel.

As earlier reported, Harrison and Joiner told aldermen that they were representing most all of the residents in the area who were opposed to the conditional use permit.

“We were annexed into the city, and we have not gotten the benefit of city services other than police,” he said, adding, “but we want you to know where we stand on this.”

Harrison’s wife, Mona, explained, “We are just working people. We have worked hard for everything we have all our lives.”

She is a fourth-grade teacher presently at Batesville Middle School and Harrison runs the family’s furniture store.

They bought their house in 1992 when the area was a lot less populated. She says the gravel pit has changed things completely.

“It’s loud. I hear the trucks coming and going constantly. I feared for my children driving,” the mother of three (now all out of high school) said. “I am ready to move.”

She stated she used to enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning in the quiet.

“With the noise and the trucks, that’s ruined,” she stated.

And her husband Scott said that if the request had been in other sections of Batesville, it would have been denied.

It’s not that the Harrisons aren’t connected. His brother, Stan, is their alderman and her brother, Colmon Mitchell, is attorney of the city.

But the vote went 3-2 with Stan Harrison and Rufus Manley voting against the conditional use permit.

That might have come about as the result of a good sales job by Memphis Stone and Gravel.

Geologist for that firm, Alan Parks, said that his company is sensitive to their surroundings and tries to be good neighbors and his company did follow all rules required.

He also explained yesterday, “The approval … gives …about two more years of sand and gravel reserves.”

He said the variance would affect nine to 15 employees who live in the immediate vicinity and the products are essential to local construction, reducing transportation costs which means less expensive construction costs.

Parks also said he expected no change in the hauling route or volume of materials. He said that his company had specific rules concerning compliance and non-compliance.

“Our noise can be effectively managed with vegetated berms and we are typically under the ground surface with much of our activity,” Parks says.

The mine will be approximately one-quarter mile from Highway 35, he noted.

“Dust is generally not problematic during mining and processing because the mined material is naturally moist and we use water to process the material,” Parks said.

“Gravel roads on our property may be the source of dust during extended periods of dry weather. A dedicated  water  truck for this site is used to wet dry areas…” Parks noted.

He also mentioned that his company will meet or exceed all regulatory requirements.