Recommendation for denial not heeded; quarry permits OK’d
By Carrie Napoleon Post-Tribune correspondent August 13, 2014 12:16PM
Location of proposed Singleton Quarry. | Lake County Surveyor's office
Updated: September 15, 2014 5:24PM
CROWN POINT — Approval of drainage permits for the proposed Singleton Quarry was granted Wednesday by the three-member special Lake County drainage board despite opposition by a host of South Lake County officials and a recommendation against approval by the Lake County drainage advisory board a couple of hours earlier.
More than 100 people attended the special meeting to oppose the proposal and plead with county officials to deny the application by Singleton Stone LLC to funnel the water into what residents contend is already a flood-prone area.
However, the mood quickly turned when it became evident the special drainage board intended to approve the permit application after a motion to deny by Commissioner Roosevelt Allen, D-1st, did not receive a second. Some residents shouted out in disgust, others left the Syd Garner Auditorium before the vote was cast.
Special drainage board members Commissioner Michael Repay, D-3, and Richard McDevitt voted to approve the permits necessary for the quarry to tie into the Singleton and Dinwiddie ditches with up to 72 million gallons of discharge water a day. Allen was the lone no vote.
McDevitt is a federal mediator who was assigned to the drainage board to replace Commissioner Gerry Scheub after Scheub was removed after a legal battle over his objection to the plan.
Singleton Stone LLC plans to site the quarry on a 1-by-1.5-mile piece of farmland south of Indiana 2 and west of Rangeline Road. The limestone quarry will be 450 feet deep.
Earlier in the day, the drainage advisory board composed of the county’s 11 township trustees voted 7-0 to recommend against granting the permits. Calumet Township, Winfield Township and Center Township trustees were absent. The Hanover Township trustee abstained.
The county’s engineering consultants, Lochmueller Group and DLZ Inc., said Singleton Stone complied with all the codes concerning tapping into the county’s drainage system.
McDevitt said residents’ arguments that more water into the ditch will equate to more flooding are based on “common sense,” but that no expert has come forward to dispute the reports from the engineers and various experts who have worked on the project the past five years.
“I have to cast a vote based on the facts,” McDevitt said.
Repay said his vote would be based on science and the law, both of which support approval.
“In the end what it comes down to is a property rights issue,” Repay said.
State Rep. Rick Niemeyer, R-11th, said he has been involved in the process since it began five years ago, first as the West Creek Township Trustee and member of the county Plan Commission, then as a county councilman and now state representative serving the area.
He said while Wednesday’s proceedings were not about zoning, a matter that already has been decided, the zoning is a non-conforming use for the area and was initially labeled as land for drainage. As a member of the plan commission, he said he has seen numerous engineering reports for various projects and the reality does not always jibe with those reports.
“These people know the area. They have lived in it all their lives...” he said. “In this case they are right. They are all right in what they are saying. I’m all for jobs, but not at the expense of everyone else involved.”
Lake County Councilman Eldon Strong, R-Crown Point, who represents the area, said the project is in a known flood plain despite engineering reports to the contrary.
“I think some of the most important information … comes from these residents behind me,” Strong said. “They know what happens when a half inch of rain falls or 3 inches of rain falls.”
“I’m frustrated and disappointed,” Strong said after the meeting.
He said all of the South Lake County officials in the area including the Cedar Creek, West Creek and Eagle Creek trustees, Scheub and Niemeyer share his opposition. Constituents from the area had no elected official representing them on the drainage board in Scheub’s absence.
“I’m disappointed the constituents did not get fair representation,” he said.
Approval of the drainage permits is the first in a series of hurdles the quarry must cross prior to construction. Multiple Indiana Department of Natural Resource and Department of Environmental Management permits are needed prior to construction, including National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits, a general permit for stormwater runoff associated with construction activities, a general permit for industrial stormwater runoff and a general permit for sand, gravel and dimension stone/crushed stone mining.