A day after winning permission to expand a controversial south Wichita sand and gravel mining operation, the owner says he plans to run the site better in the future and eventually build new homes there.
Wichita developer Jay Russell's comments came in the wake of the Wichita City Council decision Tuesday to allow him to expand the mining operation from 20 to 47 acres and bring in a portable rock crusher to recycle concrete and asphalt for three months each year.
The council approved the expansion over the objections of neighbors who say it has been a dusty mess in the past and they see no reason that making it bigger will make it better.
The site is on the east bank of the Arkansas River just south of 55th Street South.
The council vote allows Russell to extract sand and gravel for up to the next 10 years; it was originally envisioned as a two-year project.
Russell said he's "not really a sand guy," but a home developer. He developed the adjacent neighborhood where the residents are complaining about his sand pit.
"I'm just trying to get the ground to the end point where I can put houses on it," he said.
Russell promised Wednesday that the sand and gravel operation will be run better going forward.
"I do agree there were problems with dust control," he said. "That's the only real solid complaint they had."
But he also said he's agreed to have a full-time manager there to head off problems, and to fence the site and to build a berm to shield neighbors from having to see the activity there. The berm will be planted with grass and be the last dirt to be moved when the site is ready for homes, he said.
The site was originally set up to provide dirt for a new building at Spirit AeroSystems, east of K-15 near MacArthur. But since that project was completed, it's only been used sporadically, he said.
He said the crusher is necessary for efficiency of the process. Builders will be able to bring in trucks of concrete and asphalt from demolition and load up fresh sand for new construction, he said.