The Chillicothe City Council approved Galena Road Gravel expanding at a special council meeting Thursday night.


The Chillicothe City Council approved Galena Road Gravel expanding at a special council meeting Thursday night.

In a 6-2 vote, aldermen approved three motions: an ordinance about the annexation agreement, an ordinance annexing the land and the rezoning of the land from residential to industrial.

Aldermen Chris Boyer, Judy Cantwell, Denny Gould, Carl Spencer, Rich Underwood and Mel Witte approved the three motions, with Troy Childers and Jim Thornton dissenting.

“I think this is, by far, the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make since I’ve been on the council,” said Cantwell, a multiple-term alderwoman.

The land is immediately west of Galena Road Gravel Inc.’s current operations at 5129 E. Truitt Road. The 60 acres is bordered by Truitt and Blue Ridge roads, as well as the railroad.

Mayor Gary Fyke explained the various parts of the meeting.

City attorney Mike Seghetti presented the basics of the agreement.

Aldermen then asked questions of his presentation, and then allowed time for the standing-room-only audience to make their statements or ask questions.

Lastly, the aldermen discussed the issue themselves before casting their votes.

The basics
Seghetti presented mainly the same information and specifics he shared with the Chillicothe Plan Commission at its last meeting.

The over-the-scale fee, which the city uses to maintain the roads Galena’s trucks use, currently is 1.7 cents. It would increase to 4 cents.

On average, the city receives about $19,000 a year, which would increase to $44,000 per year for the next 20 years.

The company also is required to show proof of insurance and agreed to provide a $150,000 reclamation bond on the new property.

Seghetti also noted that the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency accepted the company’s reclamation plan of a recreational or wildlife area on the IEPA permit application.

A berm will be constructed on three sides, which will be 8 feet tall, 6 feet flat across the top and 70 feet wide. Officials say the berm will be made easier to maintain and will be seeded and planted, including trees across from resident Becky Ford’s home.

The hours of operation in the new section only will be 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Due to input at the last commission public hearing, language was changed to allow no new access roads on Truitt or Blue Ridge roads. Previously, the annexation agreement allowed new access roads if agreed upon by the city and the company.

Environmentally, should a problem occur, the company is required to contact the city within four hours instead of 48.

Seghetti said the environment seemed to be the biggest issue for the plan commission and council.

About 350 residents signed petitions opposing the gravel pit due to environmental concerns, but Seghetti said about half of those signatures are by those outside city limits.

Seghetti highlighted three items noted in the hydrogeologic study completed by STS, an engineering firm.

First, the company is regulated by the IEPA.

Second, the city uses about 25 percent of the water available to it. Some municipalities use almost 90 percent, Seghetti said.

As far as contamination, the study notes that no matter where a spill occurs, due to Chillicothe’s soil being so porous, the important matter is how far the city’s wells are away from the spill.

Seghetti also addressed the concerns of land use in the comprehensive plan.

In the plan, the land is highlighted for industrial use, Seghetti said, and one of the permitted uses is for mining.

“Does the comprehensive plan say that it should be a gravel pit? No, it doesn’t, and there are a lot of other potential uses for that property.”

But, Seghetti said, it does fit within the plan.

Another concern, he said, is that approving Galena Road Gravel to expand may allow for others to begin gravel pits other places.

Seghetti said there are two main differences.

The first, he said, is the comprehensive plan shows the property in question as industrial. The property to the south of Truitt Avenue, where others have tried to begin gravel pits, is marked residential in the plan.

Second, he said, the density of residential use of homes and the high school to the south of Truitt differ as opposed to the north of Truitt, with farmland and a handful of residences.

He also noted the benefits to the city, such as expanding an existing business, increasing corporate city limits, increasing the over-the-scale fee and a small increase to tax revenue.

He said the council needed to look at the big picture, including the land use issue addressed by the plan commission, but also the financial implications.

Aldermen’s questions
Childers began by asking how the city could lose the over-the-scale fee in two years when the company will still mine the property.

Seghetti said that was part of the annexation agreement made 18 years ago, which expires in two years. Without this renegotiation, Seghetti said, the city cannot offer the company any incentives.

“And, I don’t understand why we have a gravel pit in the industrial land,” Childers said. “I know that we did it. I’m probably one of the ones that did it when I was on the council before, but I don’t know why we did that.”

Thornton said the previous gravel pit, before Galena Road Gravel, had a road on the other side of the railroad tracks. He said it was worth looking into to see if the company might not have to use Truitt Avenue and pass by the residences and Chillicothe Elementary Center.

Witte asked how close the berm would be to Truitt.

Rich Lucas, Galena Road Gravel president and general manager, said the berm would be about 30 feet from Truitt.

Childers also asked if the council did not annex, then would Peoria County grant the company a special-use permit to mine the area.

Seghetti said he had talked to Matt Wahl, director of planning and zoning for Peoria County, who said the application would go through the normal process.

Cantwell said there are many different versions of what could happen. “It’s a crapshoot.”

Childers asked how long the company can mine on its current property, of which Lucas said about 20 to 25 years.

He also said the company produces different products while mining underwater, which it is currently doing.

“I, for one, am glad it’s here,” said Childers to Lucas about Galena Road Gravel. “I’m not totally sold on the use of the land for that, but I’m glad you’re here.”

“We fully understand we are infringing on some neighbors,” said Lucas, adding that changing the hours of operation on the new property is a “drastic” change.

“We want to be good neighbors. We want to co-exist with the area neighbors by making these changes. We will abide by all the requirements, all the regulations put on us. And we want to co-exist with everybody around us. We want to co-exist within the city of Chilli.”

Residents have say
Ford said she did appreciate the accommodations Lucas and the company have made.

“But it does not change the fact that I would still like to see mining stay away from my home by 1,000 feet, which is, I’m sure, what every one of you people would want it to be away from your home ...”

Resident Jim Wright, who lives in the middle of town, spoke about different gravel pits around the city.

“I, for one, just think this would be a shameful legacy to leave the future citizens of Chillicothe to take care of another hole in the ground that there’s nothing that could be done with it ... This is a short-term gain for a long-term pain.”

Wright said his major point was, “If there is no unseen urgency to vote on this matter tonight, and you are so positive that this annexation is what the people of Chillicothe want, why not put a binding referendum on the ballot in November and let the voters of Hallock and Chillicothe Township decide for themselves?”

Resident Paul Buob said, “Everything I’ve heard today from our city attorney is pretty biased ... I wish it would have been a little more even keeled. It kinda rounded up toward the positive.”

Relating to the comprehensive plan, Buob said the aldermen need to realize that it is not attorneys who will decide if another gravel pit should be allowed to the west of town, but county board members.

“If the county thinks it needs to be 1,000 feet away from a home, why would the city allow it to be anything different?” Buob asked. “Do we care less about citizens?”

Resident Clint Moewe, also a member of the plan commission, said a loophole was found to allow mining in the industrial zoning, which should have been removed after a special-use was allowed under agricultural zoning for mining.

The city’s judicial committee is currently looking at that topic.

Moewe also noted that a future gravel pit is identified on the comprehensive plan, but not where this property is located.

He also said the hydrogeologic study was not conclusive, as more study was needed about spills.

Hallock Township trustee Ron Noe presented extensive information about economic issues relating to the property.

“I hear it’s good for the city of Chilllicothe,” said Noe about the issue. “How good? How bad? I don’t know. Why hasn’t a study been done?”

He asked if the gravel pit was the best use for the land.

To develop his information, he chose a handful of industrial-zoned land or industrial parks and calculated how much money per acre the city, or in some cases, the county, receives on average.

The amount varied from as high as $1,800 per acre in Mossville to under $12 in Princeville for its quarries.

Galena Road Gravel pays almost $50 per acre.

Noe said some officials have said the infrastructure needed for an industrial park is a problem. The developer builds the roads and the utilities install the hook-ups needed, he said.

“It’s no big deal,” said Noe. “It’s not rocket science to build an industrial site.”

He also spoke briefly about the over-the-scale fee.

“It’s a great vehicle to get that $44,000,” Noe said about how much the city will receive when the property is annexed. “Can we find another vehicle to get that $44,000?”

Additionally, the city receives Motor Fuel Tax funds to maintain its roads, he said.

Under reclamation, Noe said he was still looking for an example of upperscale homes in Illinois.

Noe suggested other uses for the land, such as some type of storage for products to be shipped by railroad.

While he was speaking, Lucas asked if it was relevant to the current discussion.

Resident Kim Wilkins said the water contamination possibilities left her with questions.
“Who pays for the cleanup?” she asked. “Who replaces the wells?”

If the property is annexed, she said, there needed to be a firm agreement that Galena Road Gravel would have to pay for and resolve any contamination issues.

Resident Peggy Holmes-Hicks said she had talked to Wahl about if the county would allow the expansion. 

“But he told me some things in confidence, and I can only say that it’s very unlikely that the county would ever approve that variance.”

Aldermen discussion
Underwood addressed that the hydrogeologic study noted that it is more important how far a spill occurs from the city’s wells, and that more extensive studies would be needed to determine how long before a specified substance could reach the water supply.

Additionally, he said, a train could derail now in that area, regardless of the gravel pit.

He said officials continued going back to the plan commission to get more input about the annexation agreement.

Cantwell said she wanted feedback from all the alderman.

“This is a tough decision, gentlemen,” she said.

Thornton said, “I talked to a lot of people, especially constituents in my area. And I have a feeling that, if this was put to a vote with Chillicothe people, I think they would not go for it ... As far as the money is concerned, sometimes I agree with Judy. There’s people’s lives that are affected in this and those things have to be considered.”

Childers said that the plan commission voted the annexation down three times, and if
the council does not take their advice, then why is the commission needed.

Boyer said the aldermen also need to think about if the vote will build a wall between the council and the commission.

Cantwell said commission chairman Dennis Parkins voted in favor of the annexation at the last meeting, which held credibility for her since he was one of the original members who created the current comprehensive plan.

From the audience, Moewe interrupted her, “So was I. So was Joe Binstock,” he said about commission members who helped draw up the current comprehensive plan but voted against the annexation.

Fyke gaveled him three times, telling Moewe he was out of order and asked him to be quiet.

“... You’re slanting things, people. You’re part-timers,” Moewe said.

Gould said he received one phone call from a resident opposed to the measure because of the noise and dust.

If the trucks could run on different streets, away from residents, then people would probably be in favor of it, he said.

Spencer said the city is on a tight budget.

He also mentioned if people did not like the job the eight aldermen are doing, the seats will be open and other people can run for office.

He then called for the question.

Once Fyke pounded the gavel to close the meeting, Wilkins told the council, “You should all be ashamed of yourselves,” she said, calling them a “lazy city council.” She continued her comments by degrading Underwood.