Tuesday, July 03, 2001

Battle of the mine goes on

Residents giving depositions

By Ray Schaefer
Enquirer Contributor

        COVINGTON — The battle between a company that wants to build an underground limestone mine and Boone County residents who oppose it continued Monday.

        Bill Robinson, a Covington attorney representing Hilltop Basic Resources, continued taking depositions from residents in its lawsuit against the county.

        The company said it is exploring how much Boone County Fiscal Court relied on information about the project it gained outside public hearings when it rejected a request for a zoning change to permit the mine last August.

        Hilltop wants to build its mine on 534 acres along the Ohio River north of the Petersburg interchange on Interstate 275 in western Boone County.

        Two residents who live near the site, Tom Roberts and Jennifer Warner, oppose the mine. They participated in debates against it last summer, and they gave their depositions Monday.

        A third resident, Peggy Taylor, gave her deposition Friday.

        In February, Boone Cir cuit Judge Jay Bamberger allowed Hilltop attorneys to conduct the depositions, in which a defendant in a lawsuit must answer questions from the plaintiff under oath.

        The residents argued that allowing the depositions would discourage people from participating in civic affairs and said this chilling effect on civic discourse was a violation of the First Amendment. The company and the court disagreed.

        “From the beginning and throughout this matter, Hilltop has respected and will continue to respect the constitutional rights of everyone involved,” Mr. Robinson said Monday. “Hilltop likewise has constitutional rights as a family-owned company which owns property in Boone County.”

        “All Tom Roberts did was speak out at a public hearing, and that's all he did,” said Cincinnati attorney Todd McMurtry, representing Mr. Roberts and Ms. Taylor. “Peggy Taylor did nothing other than participate in the democratic process. She passed out fliers, spoke out at public hearings, organized her neighbors.”

        Ms. Warner presented a two-page affidavit in an attempt to avoid her deposition.

        “Other than at public meetings, I have never, at any time or place, communicated in any way to any member of the Boone County Fiscal Court or Planning Commission regarding Hilltop's application,” the affidavit stated. “I believe that this attempt is an unlawful effort to go outside the record on appeal.”


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