The Council Chambers of City Hall were standing room only on Tuesday evening for the Plymouth Board of Zoning Appeals meeting.  In fact, more than a dozen citizens were standing in the hallway outside the council chambers listening to the meeting concerning the Special Use request of Irving Materials Inc. (IMI).

IMI currently operates a sand a gravel mining operation at the corner of U.S. 31 and 11th Road.  IMI appeared before the BZA seeking a Special Use to open a gravel pit for the extraction of sand and gravel on a 73-acre parcel of land at the southwest corner of King and 11th Roads in a Rural Residential zoning district.  IMI was represented at the meeting by local attorney Derrek Jones and Kevin Holcomb, the Area Manager for IMI.    

Plymouth Plan Consultant Ralph Booker told members that IMI anticipates running out of material in their existing gravel pit in one season.  He said with the new location they plan to honor a 100-foot setback from the property line and install an earthen berm along the east and northern edges of the property.  Access to the property would be off King Road. 

In the application presented by IMI, they said they are regulated by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) and the Mine Safety and Health Administration.  They also said they must meet specific guidelines and regulations pertaining to air, noise, and water pollution.

Booker addressed Indiana Code on mining operations inside and outside urban areas.  An urban area is described as a quarter-mile square area where there are at least 8 residents. Booker also mentioned the city’s zoning ordinance on mining.  It says the BZA may not prevent the use of any mining resources outside the urban area.   This means that IMI only needs the Special Use for about the northern half of the property because of the number of residents along 11th Road.

A map was presented which shows in red the area the BZA has control of. 

The BZA has 4 Findings of Fact to consider when making their decision.  They are:

(1)Will the Special Use be injurious to the public health, safety, morals, and general welfare of the community?

Attorney Jones said there would be no detrimental impact on public health, safety, morals, or general welfare because the operation is heavily regulated.

(2) Will the requirements and development standards for the requested use meet the city’s Zoning Ordinance? 

The attorney said the Special Use request meets the zoning ordinance because the nature of the proposed use is consistent with the development standards in the zoning ordinance. 

(3) Will granting the Special Use be contrary to the general purpose served by the Zoning Ordinance and would it permanently injure other property or uses in the same zoning district? 

Again, Jones said the operation is specifically listed and identified as a special use in the R1 zoning district.

(4) Will the approval interfere substantially with the city’s comprehensive Plan? 

For the final question, Derrek Jones told the BZA in chapter 7 of the Comprehensive Plan the proposed project advances economic development and doesn’t interfere with other concepts of the comprehensive plan such as parks, recreation or public services and transportation.

When the Plymouth Board of Zoning Appeals opened the Public Hearing fourteen individuals spoke against the request for a Special Use.  They cited several items including dust constantly blowing, truck traffic on the roads, noise, and dropping of rocks on the roadway.  Others discussed the air pollution, brown snow instead of glistening white snow, and the amount of dirt that accumulates in the gutters.  One man brought a 1-gallon ice cream pail full of dirt and said he cleaned 35 feet of his gutters and filled the bucket.  Citizens discussed concerns about their well water, fears of health issues, and the negative impact on their property values.

After more than an hour of compassionate testimony by the residents of the Southfield Subdivision, the BZA closed the public hearing.

Brandon Richie, a member of the Plymouth Board of Zoning Appeals made a motion to deny the request for a Special Use to allow the mining of sand and gravel on the northern portion of the acreage and it was seconded by Paul Wendel.  All four members in attendance voted to deny the request.  The BZA cited the negative impact on the residential neighbors including health concerns, their property values, safety, and impact on county roadways.