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Board limits rock-crushing operation after neighbors complain

Opponents of a rock-crushing operation expressed concern that noise and dust would affect students on the playground at Christa McAuliffe Academy, just a half-mile to the north of the proposed operation.
Opponents of a rock-crushing operation expressed concern that noise and dust would affect students on the playground at Christa McAuliffe Academy, just a half-mile to the north of the proposed operation. File photo

A city-county planning board rejected a proposal for a years-long rock-crushing operation in southeast Wichita on Thursday after residents voiced concerns about increased traffic, noise and dust in the area.

The Metropolitan Area Planning Commission voted to allow developer Steve Miller a temporary permit to crush rock and asphalt already on his property near 143rd Street East and Pawnee. He has until Sept. 1, 2017, to complete that process.

But Miller will not be allowed to haul about 50,000 more tons of concrete – rubble from the East Kellogg expansion project – to the property and turn it into gravel over a six-year period, as he had requested.

“This is a necessary use in the wrong place,” said David Foster, chairman of the commission.

About a dozen residents of Sierra Hills and other neighborhoods near 143rd Street East and Pawnee – as well as parents of children at nearby Christa McAuliffe Academy, a K-8 school – spoke against Miller’s request at Thursday’s meeting.

“We have two new schools and 44 brand-new homes. … Where does a rock-crushing plant fit into that schematic?” asked Cathy Linaweaver, who lives in Sierra Hills.

Miller’s representative, Chris Bohm, of Ruggles & Bohm in Wichita, said the site was suitable for a rock-crushing operation because it is protected on three sides by trees “at a pretty good distance away from all of the adjacent properties.”

He added that the crushing, which would occur between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, would be done according to environmental regulations that limit dust and runoff.

That didn’t placate several opponents, who said trucks hauling concrete would make traffic congestion worse around McAuliffe and the new Southeast High School, at 127th Street East and Pawnee. They also worried that noise and dust would affect students on the playground at McAuliffe, just a half-mile to the north of the proposed operation.

“Allowing him to build this operation in such close proximity to my kids, when my kids play outside three times a day, every day … is wrong,” said Meredith Mansfield, whose two sons attend McAuliffe.

“We shouldn’t even have a rock-crushing operation that close to a school.”

Neighbors complained that Miller already had dumped tons of concrete and asphalt rubble at the site, prior to applying for a conditional use permit to crush it.

Rather than requiring him to haul it off the property, members of the commission on Thursday voted to allow him to crush it on the site once he gets the required permits from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and other agencies.

“It does just drive me a little crazy (that) we’re having to deal with things that people shouldn’t have been doing on the front end,” said commissioner Carol Neugent.

“But considering that, I think the commission has tried very hard to at least mitigate … the damage that’s already been done.”

Following the vote, resident J.D. Munley said he was “disappointed” but understood the decision.

“He didn’t follow any of the rules, and so he put the commission in a position where they rewarded bad behavior,” said Munley, who lives near the site. “They just let him off the hook.”

Suzanne Perez Tobias: 316-268-6567, @suzannetobias

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