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Council to hold public meeting to address gravel pit concerns

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Following the sale of a gravel pit in Enterprise and new activity at two more in Mountain Green, Morgan County residents have been complaining. They have been creating facebook sites, holding neighborhood meetings, signing petitions, monitoring air and calling their Morgan County Council representatives. Their actions have not gone unnoticed, and elected leaders are trying to address their concerns. In an effort to fight misinformation, the Morgan County Council is making steps to hear gravel pit concerns and answer questions in a public format.
“That is my district, and I am getting calls left and right,” said Councilman John Barber. “Citizens are scared because things are changing by their house. They need to know they are being heard.”
Barber suggested a study group be put together of gravel pit and public policy experts including the Morgan County attorney, consulting engineer, planner and perhaps regulatory experts in the private sector.
Such expertise is needed because the council fears residents are “getting a lot of one-sided misinformation,” said Councilwoman Tina Cannon.
“They are not calming down. The longer we let this go, the more problems we will have. (The council) not responding makes them mad. They are hearing one side. Not everything they have concerns about is valid,” Cannon said. “There is not a process currently in place to resolve the concerns. We need a format where we can hear their concerns. These are people who have valid concerns and questions that I can’t answer.”
“This is growing and we need to address it. They are taking this misinformation and having their own meetings,” Councilman Robert Kilmer said. “Nobody here can answer those questions, but we have staff that can address those concerns in a public forum.”
The council would like to collect questions from the residents about gravel pits, to be considered and researched by staff and other experts before the public meeting is held.
Consulting with experts “could get the level-headed public behind us,” Council Chairman Logan Wilde said.
But other council members acknowledged that there is no pleasing everyone.
“There are some people you can’t make happy,” Councilman Austin Turner said.
When residents show up to regularly scheduled public hearings regarding gravel pit conditional use permits, they mistakenly believe that their opinions that they simply don’t want mining operations in their backyard are enough to sway legislative action.
“When they address concerns at council meetings, the public comes thinking their comments are going to matter,” Cannon said. “But the research on the planning commission happened long before their comments. We need to find a place to meet somewhere in the middle.”
Legally, the county council cannot deny certain requests, even for operating a gravel pit, if the proposed use and actions conform to the county’s general plan. To refuse an application would be to invite legal action against the county, paid for at the taxpayers’ expense.
“We need the county attorney to explain the legal ramifications of what we can and can’t do,” Cannon said.
“We are not trying to hide things from the public. I don’t do that,” Kilmer said. “But once (the public) understands the process, they need to tell us what to change in our legislative process.”

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