The Douglas County board on Tuesday, May 4, denied a conditional use permit for a 39.9-acre gravel pit in Forada that has long been opposed by its neighbors.
After Land and Resource Management Director Dave Rush explained what the Minnerath Investments and Central Specialties aggregate mining operation was and provided some background during the Tuesday, May 4, regular Douglas County board meeting, the commissioners unanimously denied the permit.
Commissioners did not ask questions or have any discussion before or after Commissioner Tim Kalina made the motion to deny the permit. Commissioner Heather Larson seconded the motion. Commissioner Charlie Meyer was not present during the meeting so the vote was 4-0.
The conditional use permit for the gravel pit, which was to be built next to the city of Forada and highly opposed by the residents of the small town south of Alexandria, was first denied by the Planning Advisory Commission at its meeting on March 23. After that meeting, Rush was directed to have his staff draw up the findings of facts for why the permit was denied.
At Tuesday’s meeting, part of Kalina’s motion was to accept those findings. In the 13-page document, the facts listed included that the gravel pit would create an excessive burden on existing parks, streets and other public facilities; it would be in close proximity to a residential area and not compatible with land use; existing home values would depreciate; the gravel pit would be located within an area that is zoned rural residential; it would create a traffic hazard; and the gravel pit would have an adverse impact on public health.
Scott Erickson, a resident of Forada and a Forada City Council member, was in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting. After Kalina’s motion was approved, he got up to leave, but stopped and spoke to the commissioners.
“Thank you for your support,” he said to them.
Erickson, along with many other Forada residents, opposed the gravel pit project. Many of them have either spoken out against it at past meetings and/or have written letters in opposition of the gravel pit.
In 2010, an application to operate the aggregate mine near Forada was submitted. On Sept. 3 of that year, the county held a public meeting to view the project area. A public hearing was then set for Sept. 14, but prior to that meeting the application was withdrawn.
Several years later, in 2017, Minnerath Investments and Central Specialties voluntarily completed an environmental assessment worksheet on the operation. The assessment was facilitated by the county and included opportunities for public comment. After considering the EAW, along with all the comments that were received, the Douglas County Board decided that no further environmental review needed to be completed.
Prior to the board making that decision in 2017, Rush explained to the commissioners that they were not making a decision on the actual project, but that they had to decide if more information was needed on the proposed gravel pit project if a permit was applied for and brought before the board.
A permit was not brought before the board until this year.