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Published: Wednesday, 1/5/2005

Swancreek Township: Mining of sand opposed

BY ELIZABETH A. SHACK
BLADE STAFF WRITER

DELTA - Two companies want to mine sand southeast of Delta in Swancreek Township but face opposition from some township officials and residents who hope the court system will prevent the mining.

Sandman Trucking of Holland, Ohio, wants to mine near County Road E, creating a pond that would become the centerpiece of a housing subdivision. The Parker family, which owns the company, has filed a motion to dismiss the case, which is before the 6th District Court of Appeals.

Wylie & Sons Sand & Stone of Swanton proposes a mining operation on County Road 5 between county roads D and E. Last week, Judge James E. Barber of the Fulton County Common Pleas Court decided in favor of Wylie & Sons against the township.

For several years, the proposed mines have pitted those who seek further development in the county against residents who value quiet and water.

Residents say the mines, which turn into spring-fed ponds, lower the water table, and the mining creates eyesores and noise six or seven days a week for years.

Kent Poca, who lives across from the land owned by the Parkers, said the mining goes on even on Sunday mornings and fills the air with the sound of backup alarms and dump trucks running.

"They're just digging holes all over out here," Mr. Poca said.

Bobby Parker, president of Sandman and one of the owners,

said their operation would not increase truck traffic because they have trucks driving two miles away.

He said dust, water, safety, and health concerns are all within limits governed by the state Environmental Protection Agency, Division of Natural Resources, and other organizations.

In the legal arena, the issue centers on zoning.

Mr. Poca said the township approved an ordinance that prohibits both constructing ponds larger than 3/4 of an acre and removing the sand from the pond's construction.

The land owned by Wylie & Sons, which was not zoned when he bought it in 2002, was zoned agricultural in May, 2003, effectively prohibiting mining on the property, said attorney Kevin A. Heban, who is handling the two cases for the township.

Owner Tom Wylie argued that he began to mine before the zoning took effect and should be grandfathered in and allowed to mine. The township claims the company began to mine illegally after the land was zoned.

The judge agreed with Mr. Wylie, saying that it was more likely the residents were mistaken about the date of the mining than that Mr. Wylie had falsified his business records.

In the Sandman case, the company had applied for a zoning variance and withdrew it, then submitted an application to build a 17-acre residential pond.

"We feel that is a transparent attempt to mine the property," Mr. Heban said.

Sandman plans to develop land around a 30-acre lake big enough for paddle boats and pontoon boats with electric motors. Mr. Parker said houses in similar developments in other communities have sold for several thousand dollars, with the man-made lakes as draws that raise property values.

"It only adds to the township," he said.



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