ELBURN – Lafarge Aggregates Illinois Inc. has put it plans for an expansion to its gravel and mining operation on hold after several nearby residents expressed their anger about the project.
A representative from the company made the announcement just before the public comment portion of the Kane County Zoning Board of Appeals meeting on July 9, postponing the discussion for now.
The proposed expansion would add 148 acres to the north and east of its current mining operation at 1S194 Route 47 in Elburn. That land is currently zoned agricultural.
Maxine Flinn, 86, has seen a lot of changes in the 53 years she has lived in her home on Rowe Road, but she and her son Brian Flinn believe that the change gravel pit owner Lafarge wants to make is a bridge too far.
According to Brian Flinn, this expansion would basically surround his mother’s home on three sides and result in the home being located “in a dirt canyon that will be basically uninhabitable, and make our property unsalable and worthless."
“My mom does not deserve this as she is 86 years old and deserves to live out her life in peace,” he said.
The public hearing had just begun for Lafarge’s petition for a special use permit to expand its operation when attorney Jim Cooke, representing Lafarge in its petition, asked to table the discussion to a future date.
Cooke said Lafarge had just been made aware of some of the allegations regarding operations at the site. He said Lafarge representatives wanted the opportunity to meet with the county to address the concerns to the satisfaction of the county and to the people with objections to the expansion.
With the continuation of the discussion set for the next regularly-scheduled meeting of the Zoning Board on Aug. 13, the Lafarge representative moved into the hallway to listen to the residents living near the operation.
Flinn’s home would be the most directly affected, as it is closest to the agricultural property to be mined. Flinn said that he was told the location of the up to 30-foot berm, which Lafarge plans to build to “screen” the mining operation from the residents, would end up just 200 feet behind the Flinn home.
With photos in hand, Brian Flinn showed the Lafarge representative examples of what he called the company’s past and current neglect of the site, including the proliferation of weeds, broken fencing and cut barbed wire where cars have driven through, as well as a new berm with a large hole in it through which dust from the operation blows through.
Flinn said they had been told that as mining of a site was completed, reclamation of that site would be done, with seeding of native grasses or possibly as a park.
Maxine Flinn, who has seen a number of sections of the operation “mined out” over the past 53 years, said that she has never seen any reclamation on the site – just weeds.
“It just goes on and on and on,” she said. “They’re just going to keep on going.”
While the Flinn home is the closest in proximity to the potential expansion, Rowe Road neighbors Cindy and Robert Masa have some major concerns as well.
“I am concerned about the air quality – the dust,” she said.
The Masas have lived on Rowe Road or 17 years, and Cindy said although they knew about the gravel pit when they moved in, at that point it was far away.
“You didn’t see it, and it didn’t bother you,” she said.
But over the years, she said the operation has just kept coming closer and closer to their home. She said the light and the noise have become more bothersome, and although the mining is only supposed to take place during the daytime hours, it’s not unusual for it to continue until 11 p.m.
However, she said it’s the dust that has gotten really bad in the last few years. She said she has to constantly wash her windows. The doctors have found nodules on her lungs, which her doctor said are in really bad shape. She wears a mask now when she mows their lawn.
Although she can’t prove it, she “truly believes it’s the dust.”
Since the couple moved here, they have made many changes and improvements to their home.
“Now, it’s like our dream house,” Robert Masa said.
Cindy Masa concurred.
“I love my house,” she said. “I don’t want to move.”
And there’s also the financial consideration and their property values.
“Who’s going to want to buy our house?” her husband said.
Although the neighbors on Rowe Road would be the most affected by the expansion, residents on Timbercrest Drive have their own concerns.
“Believe me, a BERM will not stop the noise of grinding and dynamite blasting almost every night, which we already live with, and will not keep the dust and other particulates from polluting our air and homes,” Leona Anderson wrote in an email to the Kane County Chronicle.
She quotes the Kane County’s 2040 Plan, which states, “Healthy people, Healthy Living, Healthy Communities - It’s about Quality of Life.”
“That is exactly what we are concerned about. Why does Lafarge want to ruin ‘our little corner of the world’ and our quality of life?” she asked.
Blackberry Township Supervisor Esther Steel, in a letter to Kane County summarizing residents’ and townships’ concerns about the expansion, said that in addition to the noise, dust and increased truck traffic, the township believes that the property closest to Route 47 would best be saved for tax-generating, supportive businesses and feels that a 160-foot setback will not be enough room.
Cindy Masa said that she wants to be a “nice, cooperative person” in dealing with the situation.
“People have a right to sell their property,” she said. “The Merediths (the current owners of the agricultural property) are wonderful people.”
She said that ideally, she would hope that Lafarge would not expand their operations at all, but she didn’t think that was “realistic.”
The next public hearing set for comments and concerns regarding Lafarge’s petition is set for 7 p.m. Aug. 13 at the Kane County Kane County Zoning Board of Appeals meeting at the Kane County Government Center, 719 Batavia Ave., Building A, Geneva.