Gravel pit stirs opposition

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SANDPOINT - A controversial gravel mine proposal near the Kootenai County line is resurfacing.

The Bonner County Planning and Zoning Commission is holding a public hearing on Thursday, March 7, to consider a conditional use permit for Terra5, a temporary surface mine on the east side of U.S. Highway 95.

The meeting is scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m. at the Bonner County Administration Building.

It's the third time the planning commission has considered a surface mining proposal on land owned by the David Haman Trust. Two prior permit requests encountered stiff opposition from neighboring landowners.

Opponents contended, among other things, that the gravel pit would gouge property values, jeopardize ground and well water resources, run off wildlife, and inundate their rural neighborhood with dust and noise.

An initial application was tabled by a previous developer in 2008. The project was revived in 2011 for Knife River Corp., but the planning commission rejected the proposal because it would have been too disruptive to adjacent landowners and the rural ambiance of the Granite Hill area.

But the developers of Terra5 emphasize that the project's latest iteration is temporary and dedicated to an ongoing Idaho Transportation Department project to widen and realign U.S. Highway 95 through the same area.

Moreover, Terra5 is being developed in a manner that is intended to alleviate neighbors' concerns, according to h2 Surveying & Engineering in Hayden.

"This temporary project was designed to minimize the effects on neighboring parcels," Scott McArthur, a professional engineer at h2, said in a 21-page project narrative filed with the county.

Terra5's hours of operation will conform with the construction hours of the widening project (6 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday except on federally-recognized holidays) and the site will be reclaimed once the widening project is done in 2014. No hazardous materials will be stored on site and truck traffic will have direct access to U.S. 95, which will keep it off of county roads.

The developers do not foresee impacts to neighboring wells, but said they would be responsive if a landowner encounters a problem with their water supply.

But the revised development plan appears to be doing little to allay some neighbors' concerns. The project's resurrection is stirring opponents.

"They're at it again, so we're fighting it again," said Sheri Lorz.

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