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home : news : local   November 20, 2014

9/27/2013 4:05:00 PM
Poor turnout on sand mine, planning hearing


Kevin Caufield
Staff Writer



Less than 10 local residents attended a public hearing Thursday at Peru City Hall meant to give the public an opportunity to weigh in on land use concerns.
The goal of the hearings is to obtain ideas and concerns from citizens on a variety of land use requirements whether the topic is protecting farm ground or sand mines.
But given the low turnout, it appears La Salle and Peru will be largely left out of the equation.
“The problem with these public hearings is we only get a small turnout so it’s hard to know if we’re getting an accurate gauge of what the public wants,” said county zoning director Mike Harsted. “We only end up hearing from a few people and those few people shouldn’t be the only ones deciding the direction of the county.”
The La Salle County Comprehensive Plan is a land-use planning guide the county’s Zoning Board of Appeals uses to make recommendations to the county board. For example, if someone wants to build a multi-acre silica sand mine next to the entrance of Starved Rock State Park, that company would first need to go through the ZBA hearing process. Once the ZBA makes a recommendation, the county board gives its final say to any project with a yes or no vote.
At the meeting in Peru, future sand mine development dominated the conversation.
Harsted said the county has not been approached about any new sand mining projects. He and other board members believe the reason why is because the county’s comprehensive plan aims to protect quality farm ground.
“They all are talking to cities about mining along municipal boundaries and being annexed in,” he said. “They’re all going to be built next to cities and if municipalities aren’t careful they may find themselves boxed in.”
The meeting also served to clear up some confusion on the impact the county can have on sand mine projects annexed by a municipality.
Phil Gassman, a rural Utica resident who lives near the Illinois Cement Co. sand mine project in northeastern Utica, said the sand mine is a significant hardship for residents who live near it, the Utica Village Board made no attempt to encourage or require Illinois Cement to implement regulations such as blasting requirements that are stricter than state requirements or offer any worthwhile property value protections.
“I guess the question I’m asking tonight … is there anything the county can do for us?” Gassman said.
Due to state annexation laws, Harsted said once a municipality annexes property that property comes under city laws and is no longer under the county’s jurisdiction.
Harsted ended the meeting saying if anyone wanted to offer input on the county’s comprehensive plan that they still could do so by calling the county’s zoning office at (815) 433-8666.










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