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Gravel excavation permit has neighbors crying foul

It is with great disappointment for our valid and viable concerns of opposition to Marty Solmon being granted a conditional use permit to operate a gravel grading, excavating and hauling site in the back yard of our quiet, beautiful neighborhoods, that we write this letter to the editor.

One hundred and seven individuals signed a petition that was distributed to over 100 residents who received letters from the County Planning & Zoning Office, informing them of the application.

Residents in the areas of The Chesterfield, Long Bridge Road, Nodaway Drive, Bridgeview Boulevard, Deadshot Bay along County Road 22, and other areas surrounding this property received letters.

Many residents sent letters to the County Zoning & Planning Office and Becker County Commissioners, and many attended, and voiced their concerns at, the May Lakeview Township Board meeting, and the last two months' meetings of the County Planning Commission and county commissioners -- unfortunately all in vain, as Mr. Solmon was granted the permit.

The question was asked at each meeting, whether the gravel could be hauled out within a 60 to 90 day period and stockpiled, versus hauling from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and an occasional Saturday, for three years. Mr. Solmon always answered -- there is no money to be made by stockpiling, versus selling on an as needed basis.

It is at this point where we Becker County tax paying residents asked the question, why should we compromise with the lessened valuation of our homes, the noise and dust raised during operation, the increased heavy truck traffic past our neighborhoods, the safety of children who would find this gravel pile(s) an attractive nuisance (no fence around the site), the safety of oncoming cars at the blind curve near the entrance-exit of the site, and other viable concerns for three years, just because it would mean less money for Mr. Solmon to take care of said gravel in a timely manner!

Something just doesn't pencil in this equation!

Should there not be a reasonable, prudent alternative, we at the very least, would have been willing to put up with this for a 60 to 90 day period, and be done with it. Along Kemberidge Road in The Chesterfield, one can see the gravel pile through the trees, and see just how close this operation is to the neighborhood, and understand how noisy and dusty it is.

Legitimate proposed conditions were suggested by a concerned resident, for the protection of the affected area residents. We hoped the proposed conditions would have been seriously discussed by the commissioners, and some or all applied to the permit for Mr. Solmon to adhere to, for the duration of the permit.

These conditions, along with the majority of the valid concerns of opposition, seemed to fall on deaf ears at each of the meetings, and our questions remained unanswered.

We feel our serious concerns regarding our homes and neighborhoods, which we take pride and comfort in, were disrespected and disregarded by enough of the Planning Commission, and Commissioners, to allow the vote to be in favor of allowing this permit.

The few that did hear us and take it to heart, we appreciate. If we can't turn to these individuals for help, where does one go from here? Just how many more residents in opposition did we need ?

Mr. Solmon felt one of the proposed conditions was asking that he haul gravel in the winter months -- this was not a proposed condition! The condition read: "The dates of operation should be restricted to only two time periods each year that the gravel operation can operate, and those time periods should not be during the summer. In other words, the owner may excavate and remove gravel during a two week period once in the spring and once in the autumn. There can be no gravel excavation and removal at the site between the dates of May 15th and September 15th of any year."

Residents and tourists in this area, would then enjoy summer as they should.

The condition for access to the site read: "All machinery and trucks that enter and exit the site must do so from and to the southeast route on County Road 22 directly to Highway 59 and then to whatever destination allowed. No truck or machinery traffic may use County Road 22 in the westerly direction. No other entrance or exit is allowed and no other direction of flow of truck/machinery traffic is allowed. Because the site access is now on County Road 22, and it is located very near a blind curve, the owner (at owner's expense) must have a flag person stationed on the curve so that oncoming traffic from the south on County Road 22 can be warned of trucks turning slowly in or out of the site."

The opposition to this condition was the fact that it would add an approximate four miles onto each truck trip. This additional mileage should not have to be a consequence the individuals living around the property should have to pay!

These conditions were suggested in order to protect the property and the rights of the neighbors so that the enjoyment and value of their own investment is not significantly diminished.

Whether the conditions cause added time, effort and cost to the owner/developer is not the primary issue. Unfortunately, none were applied. -- Bette Larson, Detroit Lakes

(The letter was also signed by 16 others residents of the area.)