Friday, September 08, 2000

Boone Co. regroups on anti-mine stance

By Lori Hayes
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        BURLINGTON — Boone County Fiscal Court's withdrawal of a proposed ban on underground mining doesn't mean the county is backing down on its stance against mines.

        Instead, the commissioners' attorneys are suggesting they take a different approach if they want to keep the businesses out.

        But first, Judge-executive Gary Moore says the county must focus on a lawsuit filed against county officials by Martin Marietta Inc. before pursuing a possible ban.

        “We have no offensive plan at this time,” he said. “We'd want to sit down and pool all of our resources before making any decisions.”

        Last week, commissioners — after rejecting a proposal for an underground limestone mine in western Boone County presented by Hilltop Basic Resources Inc. of Cincinnati — unexpectedly proposed that the planning and zoning commission ban all industrial mining.

        But Tuesday, the group withdrew the resolution on the advice of its attorneys.

        The resolution, initiated by Commissioner Robert Hay, recommended that the county's Planning and Zoning Commission look at repealing a 1997 court order that requires a zoning designation for industrial mining.

        If Fiscal Court wants to challenge the mandate, however, it should go through Circuit or Appeals Court, Boone County Attorney Lar ry Crigler said.

        If the commissioners want to keep underground mining out of their back yards, they need to do their homework, said Jennifer Warner, owner of First Farm Inn near Petersburg and a member of Residents Against Mining. Proposing a resolution that likely would not hold up in court only hurts the commissioners' efforts, she said.

        “They should know what they're doing before they make these wild comments,” she said.

        Mr. Hay, who was not at this week's meeting when the resolution was withdrawn, said the 1997 mandate is unjust and he wants a second opinion.

        “I don't believe a judge, one man, can tell us, Boone County, what is constitutional and what is not,” he said. “We have to pursue it through the courts. It's been clear ... that there's been some serious questions whether mining belongs in a rapidly urbanizing area like Boone County.”

        The commissioners will likely wind up in court, whatever their next step. Martin Marietta Inc. has been pushing the county to allow a limestone mine in the area since 1993. The company sued county officials after its zone change request was rejected.

        Mr. Moore said the pending litigation also contributed to commissioners' decision to withdraw the proposed ban.

        While opponents of the mines would love to see a ban on the businesses, several said Thursday that the county will have to take the battle into court.

        “We aren't doing anything to enforce our comprehensive plan,” which outlines the growth in the county, said Mary Swiggum, a resident of Rabbit Hash. “We continue to allow things that go against the plan. So far zoning hasn't protected anything in Boone County. Fiscal Court is going to have to take a legal stand.”


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