Thursday, June 08, 2000

Planning panel OKs limestone mine

By Kristina Goetz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        BURLINGTON — Hilltop Basic Resources Inc. on Wednesday cleared the next-to-last hurdle standing in the way of locating an underground limestone mine in Boone County.

        County planning commission members voted 7-5 to recommend to the Boone Fiscal Court a proposal to establish the facility in the western portion of the county on the Ohio River.

        “We're very pleased with the outcome, but we're cau tiously optimistic,” said Hilltop president John Steele Jr. “We're very eager to be a positive partner with the community.”

        Hilltop plans to use barges to remove the limestone rather than trucks and agreed to conditions that would require crushing and screening to take place underground, which the company said would eliminate dust and noise.

        The commission's decision was controversial.

        It is the first time a company that wants to build an underground limestone mine has gotten this far in the process in Boone County. Martin Marietta Materials Inc., seeking a zone change to establish subsurface mining, was denied by the fiscal court in October. That company's inquiries about subsurface mining began as early as 1993, when the county had no zone for it.

        The planning commission's vote at Wednesday night's meeting also proved to Hilltop officials how important was commission member attendance.

        “More people present means more people to vote, and we're pleased that commissioners showed up in full force,” Mr. Steele said.

        At the last full commission meeting in May, several voting members were absent and there were not enough votes to recommend approval. So the official vote had to be deferred to this meeting.

        Commissioner Tom Chaney said he thinks Hilltop's project is viable.

        “I strongly believe the applicant is bending over backwards to accommodate the Boone County community,” he said.

        Commissioner Don McMillian, though, said there is no way to control the dust from a mine, no matter how many conditions a company agrees to.

        “This proposal, to turn it down would be the thing to do,” he said. “To approve it is going to be a sore spot in Boone County.”

        Another lingering issue is whether the approval of Hilltop's proposal could leave the door open for Martin Marietta.

        Jim Dressman, an attorney for Martin Marietta, attended the meeting but said he had no comment because of pending litigation. The company is appealing the fiscal court's decision.

        One person in attendance said the county just isn't hearing residents on the mining issue.

        “The commissioners don't understand the long-term negative impacts on the community,” said Bo Walden, who lives in Hebron near the proposed Hilltop site. “What kind of economic impact is there going to be for Boone County? I'm not going to benefit from it.”


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