Gravel pit complaints aired for Town Board

by Emmitt B. Feldner of The Review staff

PLYMOUTH – A month ahead of an expected ruling on renewing its conditional use permit, the Town Board received an earful of complaints Tuesday about the PRL Excavating gravel pit on Highview Road.

Proximity, noise, setback violations and more were alleged by several neighbors of the pit.

But while they initially won an admission by Town Attorney Jim Hughes that the pit should not be operating until the expired permit is renewed, town officials had to concede later that they may not be able to enforce the permit or its terms at present.

That came after pit owner Lonny Schirmer of PRL pointed out that the pit is operating under a contract with the state Department of Transportation, which Dan Shiley of Vinton Construction confirmed.

“If he’s working for the DOT, we have no regulation,” of the pit, Town Chairman Warren Luedke told the audience.

“When they’re doing a project for the the DOT, they’re exempt from town rules,” Hughes agreed.

Among the complaints registered with the board were the proximity of entrances to the gravel pit to neighboring properties, which several neighbors complained are far less than setbacks required in the town’s zoning ordinance.

“There is nothing in his conditional use permit about setbacks,” Highview Road resident Pam Bronk told the board. “You have whole bunch of rules in your zoning for M-2 and most of it has not been followed. He has ignored all the rules you put down.”

She noted that because of the size of the lot, if the town enforced the 200-foot setback on the pit, “he would have nothing left.”

Schirmer responded that his neighbors had signed off on the 25-foot setbacks for drives and digging at the pit when the original permit was issued in 2012.

“We’re not going along anymore,” Bronk responded.

Bronk also pointed out that the original two-year permit expired in 2014 and had not been renewed by Schirmer, who still was operating the pit in 2015.

“We’re getting more vocal because of what we see – a constant disregard for your rules as far as zoning,” Bronk stated.

“The permit’s expired so you’re not allowed to operate. Until your permit gets renewed, you can’t operate in the pit,” Hughes told Schirmer.

Schirmer asked if he could remove gravel that has already been mined and processed and is sitting on the property.

Hughes then repeated, “There can be no operations in the pit until the permit is renewed.”

At that point, Schirmer stated that his operations had been approved by the county Planning and Resources Department and were being done under contract with the DOT for a state road project.

That forced town officials to concede that, under a state law adopted several years ago, gravel pit operations for DOT road projects supersede any town rules, regulations or authority.

Luedke pointed out that the town ran into the same problem with another gravel pit that operated for the State 23 project last summer and could do nothing about neighbor complaints or violations of town codes because it was operating under contract with the DOT.

Supervisors voted to advertise for buyers for the fire department’s tanker.

Luedke reported that he had a call from a person interested in buying the tanker.

Fire Chief Dennis Fellows said the department no longer uses the vehicle, which has a cracked frame. “We won’t take it out on the road,” he told the board.

“If we’re not taking it out on the road, it’s not worth hanging onto it,” Supervisor Gene Blindauer commented.

Greenbush Town Chairman Mike Limberg, who was in the audience, said his township had a similar situation with their outof service tanker and sold it for $2,800 after advertising it for sale.

The board approved a pair of conditional use permits to allow Tod Schmitt to operate Vintage Motorsports Management at N6128 Pleasantview Rd. and for Aron Conde for a lawn and garden equipment sales, service and rental business at W5140 County O.

They also approved a request from Road America to construct a 15-foot by 18-foot monument sign.

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