Fayette judge upholds decision in Vulcan mining case

bfortune@herald-leader.comOctober 12, 2012 

A judge has upheld the decision from the Board of Adjustment that denied Vulcan Materials' request to expand its underground limestone mining operation in southeastern Fayette County.

The board ruled in February that Vulcan's mining operation caused excessive noise, truck traffic and potential environmental damage.

Vulcan appealed to Fayette Circuit Court. In a Sept. 17 opinion, Circuit Judge Kim Bunnell said, overall, there was substantial evidence supporting the Board of Adjustment's denial of Vulcan's request. She said the board had not acted in an arbitrary or unreasonable manner.

The company is evaluating whether to appeal to the Kentucky Court of Appeals.

Vulcan has mined limestone on a 130-acre parcel on Elk Lick Creek Road, off Old Richmond Road, since 1958. The mine was opened to provide rock and gravel for construction of nearby Interstate 75.

In 2010, the company requested a permit to extend its mining onto an adjoining 135 acres, part of Hidden Haven farm owned by developer Dennis Anderson. That request was later reduced to 53 acres.

Multiple neighbors in the Old Richmond Road area testified before the board in opposition to the expansion request. Several said their houses had been damaged by regular blasting. Mary Diane Hanna said she could feel Vulcan's blasting, and that the vibrations caused cracks in the foundation of her 1880-era house.

Nancy Robertson and Jim Lerton both said they had to repair their houses because of the blasting.

Dr. Charles Martin said Old Richmond Road was a country road used by farmers, bicyclists, tourists and motorcyclists. It has few shoulders and no passing lanes to get around trucks, and between 2001 and 2010, there had been 23 truck wrecks in an eight-mile stretch of road near Vulcan property.

Vulcan attorney Richard Hopgood, when questioned by the board about truck traffic and the stability of the mine, said trucks make 75 to 100 trips a day in the busy season, and there was no way to know whether the mine would be stable forever.

Hopgood argued that there was no evidence that Vulcan was doing irreparable damage to property in the area, and that nearby large property owners, including Floracliff Nature Sanctuary and Hidden Haven farm, had not complained of adverse effects from the mining.

Vulcan originally began its operation when mining was permitted in agricultural areas in Fayette County, with no permit needed from the Board of Adjustment. In 1991, the city passed a quarrying ordinance that required mining companies to register and to file a reclamation plan and maps of underground mining operations, locations of dynamite and gasoline storage.

Hopgood contended that Vulcan did not have to comply with the ordinance because its mining was a pre-existing use. The company has never filed reclamation plans.

This did not sit well with Bunnell, who said the lack of a reclamation plan, breaching of mining boundaries, "along with all the other evidence presented, could induce a reasonable person to believe expansion would cause adverse impacts."

On Thursday, Hopgood said Vulcan was disappointed by Bunnell's ruling. Plaintiffs have until Oct. 16 to appeal.

Attorney Don Todd, who represented opponents of Vulcan's plan, said, "Obviously, all the neighborhood associations are very pleased with the result."

Hanna, speaking as president of the Old Richmond Road Neighborhood Association, said, "We totally agree with the decision. They're operating on a conditional permit in a rural area as it is. You're not supposed to be able to expand. That's what they were pushing to do."

If Vulcan does not appeal, it cannot expand its mining operation onto the adjoining property. It will have to mine deeper on the current site, which would be expensive and carry some safety risks. Vulcan's other active mine in Fayette County is Central Rock on Manchester Street. It owns an inactive mine on Georgetown Street.

Beverly Fortune: (859) 231-3251. Twitter: @BFortune2010.

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