Environmental study in works

Marianne Gillespie

The fate of Galena Road Gravel Inc. expanding its borders westward remains buried in meetings and paperwork.

The city and Galena, located at 5129 E. Truitt Road, are in negotiations to annex a piece of land west of Galena, currently owned by Marilyn Longman. The land, in

Hallock Township, also would be used for mining.

STS Consultants Ltd. currently is working on an environmental study.

Subdivision/annexation committee chairman Rich Underwood said city officials chose the consultant, with Galena footing the bill.

Underwood said officials hope to have the results by April 24 or the end of the month.

Galena is also paying Austin Engineering for a site-plan drawing, Underwood said, which will show the pipelines, powerlines, berms with a required 100-foot setback and more.

“There’s going to be one piece of equipment and a conveyor belt,” Underwood said about the land. He also said the eastern boundary would be within 100 feet of the creek, but Galena does not have plans to cross the creek.

Due to the noise concerns, Underwood said the agreement will include restrictions of working from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. only.

City/Chillicothe Plan Commission

The Chillicothe Plan Commission voted twice not to recommend annexation to the Chillicothe City Council.

At the first meeting, the commission looked at two parcels of land, one to the north and one to the south of the railroad tracks crossing Blue Ridge Road, bordered by Truitt Road.

Numerous questions from Hallock Township and Fawn Hills residents included issues of Ratliff Road, water supply and more.

The annexation agreement then was amended to only the second parcel, which is south of the railroad tracks.

Dennis Parkins, chairman of the Chillicothe Plan Commission, said members continued to have more questions even after the first parcel was taken out of the agreement.

“It seemed like there were still a lot of unanswered questions,” said Parkins.

He said the commission needed more definite answers about potential problems with the San Koty aquifer, which supplies the area with water. They asked if a spill or pollution should occur, or a train derail in the area, then what would happen?

The discussion continued about where the aquifer actually is and that increased mining increases the risk for problems. Chillicothe’s soil acts as a natural filtration system for water, which would be taken away if that area is mined.

Underwood said, from what he can tell, the company is mining over the aquifer currently. The company would move further to the west, away from the aquifer, with the expansion.

He said the chances are “slim to none” of contaminating the aquifer.

Underwood noted that farm chemicals and improperly working septic systems currently continue adding nitrates to the water supply.

Commission members also had questions about reclamation, and should that occur before a new pit is dug.

Rich Lucas, Galena Road Gravel president and general manager, contacted the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to see if someone can speak to interested parties about the reclamation process and its rules.

Lucas said DNR representatives told him they do not like to get involved in issues like this and want to remain neutral.

He also said the company is still actively mining on its current property, so the area cannot be reclaimed yet.

Though not in the formal annexation agreement yet, Underwood said officials are approaching Galena about putting up a bond for reclamation. He said he did not know how much money would be required.

“We’ve tried to cover any concern that was raised by Hallock Township or the Plan Commission,” said Underwood. “And, I think we have.”

The city’s comprehensive plan includes not only property within the city, but also one and one-half miles outside the city.

The area in question is marked as a light industrial area, which could mean a plant, warehouse or more.

The commission also is recommending the city change its definition of allowed uses for light industrial, as anyone with that zoning could begin a gravel pit.

Parkins said the issue does not relate just to Galena.

“We would have to think long and hard about making anything an industrial zoning,” said Parkins.

The city also offers an agricultural zoning with a special-use permit for mining.

Current gravel pit

Underwood said Galena’s current property’s annexation agreement expires in two years when it will be 20 years old.

Currently, under the agreement, the city receives a tonnage fee of 1.7 cents.

Under the proposed annexation agreement, the fee would change to 4 cents per ton. Underwood said city engineer Ken Coulter calculated the fee based upon the damage to Moffitt Street and Truitt Avenue by the trucks driving on them and some money for inflation.

Underwood said the previous annexation agreement for its current property did not include details about landscaping, trees and berms. Officials have promised to take care of those details, Underwood said.

“They actually are good neighbors and they’ve been good neighbors,” said Underwood. “I don’t see any reason why they can’t move westward.”

With all the noise of operations and trucks, sand and gravel spilled, Underwood said he is well aware of the company’s operations, as he lives on the corner of Fourth Street and Truitt Avenue.

“I’m probably more inconvenienced than anyone else,” said Underwood.

In the hole

Lucas said he approached the city about the annexation simply to coincide with the company’s current operations.

Some residents have questioned why the company needs more land after recently buying a western area of Chillicothe Rec Area.

The area is basically mined out, Lucas said, but the company does have one processing plant on the land.

“From a business standpoint, it was just more feasible to keep moving to the west,” said Lucas.

The type of sand and gravel products in the proposed annexation area has the same quality and gradation of material Galena’s customers buy now, Lucas said.

“I expected nothing to this extreme,” Lucas said about the opposition of residents for the annexation.

His goal for the meetings thus far was to listen to residents’ concerns and address them.

Lucas said with mining occurring in Chillicothe for more than 80 years in the past — Galena mining for the last 25 years — he is relying on past history of no water contamination issues.

The company mines and produces different sizes of gravel for concrete, septic systems, landscaping and seal coating roads, as well as sand.

“Everything will remain the same,” Lucas said about the operations if the annexation occurs, including no increased traffic.

He said the company can continue mining for the next 20 to 25 years at its current location. But, some of its mining occurs underwater now, which produces a different product.

Some Chillicotheans have questioned whether the land will be sold regardless of the annexation.

Lucas said the selling of the property is contingent upon the zoning classification of the land to be used for mining.

The company’s customers are within a 60-mile radius of Peoria, with some concrete and sand transported to Chicago and Rock Island.

Galena also employs about 34 people, 19 of those living in Chillicothe.

Too close for comfort

Becky Ford, who lives across from proposed expansion of the gravel pit on Truitt Road, said the noise, dust and dirt of constant mining is already close enough to her home.

“I am really against them moving in on top of me,” said Ford.

If the city had the same rules as the county, she said, not much of the proposed land could be used for expansion, as the county requires a 1,000-foot setback from residences.

“What I’d really like to see them go by is county code,” said Ford.

She said there are already so many holes from gravel pits in Chillicothe that more holes just add to the potential for problems with the water supply.

She also said she is not trying to put people out of their jobs, but by Galena’s own admission, the company still can mine 20 to 25 more years at its current location.

“I’m very disappointed, I guess, at the people pushing for it,” said Ford. “Would you want it at your front door? I don’t think so.”

She is one of the residents involved with a petition, which is located at local businesses. The petition is for those opposed to the proposed annexation for environmental reasons, Ford said.

She said those against the annexation do not live just in Hallock Township and encouraged those living within the city to call their aldermen.

Peoria County’s rules

Variations of Peoria County’s requirements for a gravel pit to be located in an unincorporated part of the county continue to be discussed.

Matt Wahl, director of planning and zoning for Peoria County, said if Galena would ask the county, instead of the city of Chillicothe, about the unincorporated property, the request would be treated just like a new gravel pit application.

“As long as it remains unincorporated, the county board would consider it a new gravel pit,” said Wahl.

The issue would be voted on by the county board and would require a special-use permit. The 1,000-foot setback would be included, he said, unless those property owners within 1,000 feet give permission for the gravel pit to be there.

The city also could oppose a special-use permit and could force a super-majority vote of the county board.

He also said there could be some reclamation issues with the property, in which the state may supercede the county’s authority.

Hallock Township

As Hallock Township supervisor, Kevin Peterson said all the comments voiced to the township’s board of trustees have been in opposition of the gravel pit. In fact, he said, they are “adamantly opposed.”

At a special meeting March 18, with 35 people in attendance, Peterson said the board voted as a township to oppose the expansion.

The township, he said, also does not want to lose revenue from the area, and once used for a gravel pit, it cannot be used for something else of value.

The city, however, Peterson said, will gain revenue from the tonnage fee, but the township will receive nothing.

With the city’s comprehensive plan including light industrial use for that area, he noted a gravel pit takes away an opportunity for some sort of a manufacturing area.

Residents also are concerned about the overall appearance, and ecological problems with the water supply and even well problems.

In February, Peterson said, city attorney Mike Seghetti sent the township a certified letter about the proposed annexation.

Peterson said he thought, in the spirit of good neighbors, that someone should have made personal calls or invited them to a meeting.

On a personal note, Peterson spoke highly of some of those involved in the process.

“To me, (Rich Lucas) has been very open and willing to work and listen.”

“The Plan Commission has been very open, very forthright and very positive.”

Future

The annexation issue is expected to return to the Chillicothe Plan Commission for its May 6 meeting. The city council is then expected to vote on it at its May 12 meeting.

Underwood said he also plans to hold another subdivision/annexation committee meeting before those meetings.