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Panel shoots down CR 22 gravel pit

The Becker County planning Commission denied a conditional use permit application from Marty Solmon to operate a gravel pit on West Lake Drive and County Road 22.

The Becker County Planning Commission voted Tuesday to deny an application for a conditional use permit to operate a gravel pit near the Chester Field development.

After hearing several complaints from residents who live near the gravel pit, located on West Lake Drive and County Road 22, the commission voted 4-3 against the plan.

Developer Marty Solmon of Solmon Construction, was previously granted a land alternation permit last year to begin his residential development and road work. This year, he's proposing the excavation of 75,000 to 100,000 cubic yards from the hours of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday for five years.

Residents expressed concerns Tuesday night and cited safety, pollution, noise and the reduction of property value as reasons the conditional use permit should not be granted.

"It's very inconvenient to the people that live in Chester Field," said Gene Maluski who lives right at the bottom of the hill.

A petition aimed at stopping the gravel mining operation from going forward was signed by 107 residents and presented to planning commission.

Some residents suggested the excavation be done in a matter of days, not years.

But Mike Hough, of Hough Inc, who's working with Solmon on his development, said to stockpile even 35,000 to 50,000 cubic yards out of there in a few days, weeks or months would not be economically feasible.

The location of the gravel pit made it difficult for planning commission members to vote on a recommendation to bring to the Becker County Board Tuesday.

"This is literally on top of people," said Chairman Jim Bruflodt.

He added that Solmon has the right to build a residential development, however, the location complicates things.

Member Mary Seaberg said although residents expressed concerns over decreasing property value, in the long run, the new development would actually benefit real estate values.

Becker County Highway Engineer Brad Wentz wrote in a statement to the planning commission that safety is a concern with this gravel mining operation.

Additionally, if a permit were granted, the condition of the highway would be monitored closely due to the frequency of heavy equipment and trucks traveling down that road.

City of Detroit Lakes officials recommended not operating on Saturdays, shortening the hours and overall time period of the project as well as maintaining a clean road on a daily basis.

Planning and Zoning Administrator Patty Swenson will bring the commission's recommendation to the Becker County Board meeting Tuesday, May 25.