UPDATE: Group seeks gravel pit in Medina

Marianne Gillespie

While Chillicothe officials remain concerned about a possible gravel pit stunting the city’s westward growth, Medina Township officials now have their own gravel pit issues in the heart of their jurisdiction.

Mossville Land Investments LLC filed two special-use permit applications with Peoria County Wednesday. The land, at 14728 N. Old Galena Road, consists of more than 200 acres zoned both for agriculture and industrial use.

Involved in the endeavor is Stanley Maxheimer, brother of the late Steve Maxheimer, and brother-in-law Joe LaHood, both of Washington.

Matt Wahl, director of Peoria County Planning and Zoning, said barring any continuances or other setbacks, the Peoria County Zoning Board of Appeals will look at the information Sept. 11.

Next to take a look at the information is the land use committee, and finally, the Peoria County Board.

Medina Township supervisor John Dawson, road commissioner Frank Sturm and Plan Commission chairman Jim Christopher met with Maxheimer and LaHood six to eight weeks ago.

“Last time I had talked with them was when they stopped at the township,” said Medina Township supervisor John Dawson. “They weren’t sure what they were going to do.”

At the time, Dawson said, the men showed them plans for a 350-acre gravel pit and wanted the township’s opinion of their project.

Dawson said the township officials would not take a position at that time to avoid impropriety, and, if they filed for a special-use permit, then township officials could give an official opinion of their project.

“We were not excited and expressed that to them,” said Dawson. “We were not excited about a huge hole in the ground in our township.”

As of Monday, Dawson was not notified of the men’s plans, and said he would contact Peoria County officials to confirm their filing and then call the township’s attorney, Tim Bertschy.

Dawson said the township’s plan commission will look at the issue first, followed by the township board.

The next Medina Township board meeting is at 7 p.m. Aug. 13.

Chillicothe’s issues

No formal statements have been issued as Peoria County officials are reviewing information relating to the use of 80 acres directly west of Chillicothe city limits, now owned by FLM Enterprises LLC.

Both Maxheimer and LaHood are also part of FLM Enterprises.

Residents and officials became alarmed as sand piles were removed from the property, which lies directly behind Brandon Park and across the street from Sycamore Trail.

City officials are asking for clarification as to what the owners legally are allowed to do on the property.

In an Aug. 7, 2007, letter obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, Kathi Lowder, assistant director of planning and zoning, addressed Maxheimer’s request as to the status of a non-conforming use permit issued Sept. 10, 1974 to Martin-Marietta Corp.

The permit included 1,057.718 acres, all in Chillicothe Township.

The non-conforming use allows “strip and remove overburden, mine quarry, extract, process, store, sell, remove and transport across, stone, sand and gravel in, on, under or from the properties.”

The letter also stated that if the non-conforming use is discontinued or abandoned for six months, then the use cannot begin again.

“Since there is a recorded non-conforming use certificate for this property, and the use of storage has not been discontinued, it is the position of this department that the non-conforming use certificate is still valid,” the letter stated.

City officials disagree with that opinion, which is why they are seeking clarification.

Martin-Marietta abandoned the land in the 1970s, leaving it with the sand and topsoil as it was.

Carl Hoerr of Hoerr Excavating Inc. also received a similar letter dated May 3, 1983, asking about the status of the property. James P. Martin, assistant zoning administrator at the time, responded to Hoerr’s inquiry.

Setback requirements also were addressed in a Dec. 13, 1977, letter to Mishael Gard, an attorney for Martin-Marietta.

The letter, written by zoning administrator W. Louis Sidell Jr., stated that Sidell advised Gard about the ordinance requirement of a 1,000 linear feet setback from a residential subdivision with five or more homes.

“It is my opinion, and I advised Mr. Gard that their non-conforming use status would exempt them from meeting that requirement, particularly on the Hake property, which was the property in question,” wrote Sidell.

“I did, however, advise him that I would expect them to meet a 50’ yard requirement as provided under Section 4 (B) (14) (II) (c) of the zoning ordinance.”

Wahl said he could not comment, per the state’s attorney, about the information regarding the property.

“Once litigation is suggested, I have to stay out of any discussions,” said Wahl.

Wahl did, though, explain that non-conforming use permits typically are issued when a zoning regulation is being changed.

Like a special-use permit, the non-conforming use gives special consideration for a property.

Wahl said the non-conforming use also can provide restrictions for properties that may be grandfathered in.

The area, between Sycamore Street and Truitt Road, is part of land Steve Maxheimer petitioned Peoria County in 2001-02 for a special-use permit for mining. He withdrew his petition in 2002 a few months before his death.