Potential annexation of Jackson Township land into the city of Columbus could pave the way for a gravel quarry operation, but the proposal is facing growing opposition from the township, neighboring property owners, and Grove City.
Township trustees met with Dave Jones, representing the Jones Fuel Company, Grove City Development Director Chuck Boso, and James Herlihy, representing Herlihy Moving and Storage, prior to their Oct. 28 regular meeting to discuss the proposed quarry.
"We’re going to be 300 to 500 feet away from anybody and chances are nobody will know we’re there," Jones told the trustees. "There’s a considerable buffer zone between the operation and residential areas."
Regarding the potential impact on neighboring wells, Jones said, "This is a ‘wet’ operation and there is no pumping of water off-site. No fuel will be stored in the floodplain and there’s no possibility of contamination. The quarry to the north of us involves a dry process, which has to pump out water."
Jones said since the operation is for gravel and not limestone, there would be no blasting on site. Core borings show a potential of up to 70 feet of gravel and the mining area would encompass approximately 55 acres. The majority of trucks would exit north on State Route 104 after going through a washing process to remove excess gravel and dirt.
Material would be stockpiled on a hard surface, an electrical or diesel screening process would be used to separate the gravel, and the quarry would operate from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on a seasonal basis from March through November.
"I don’t want to have an adversarial relationship," commented Jones. "I’m trying to do things right. I’m trying to clear up any misconceptions. It would be easier for me to go with Jackson Township (instead of annexing into Columbus)."
However, trustees continued to voice concern over safety issues and egress out of the property.
"I’ve probably had more people call me on this than any other issue in my time as a trustee and we’ve had some pretty big issues," said Chairman David Burris.
In a letter to Columbus, attorney and zoning appeals board member Jeffrey Compton wrote, "Jackson Township is very much against the proposed annexation of 89 acres on Jackson Pike to the city of Columbus for a gravel quarry. We think this would be a horrible change in land use in an area that is adjoined by residential and commercial uses.
"Additionally, this quarry’s proximity to the newly built Parkway Center retail complex in Grove City would be disastrous. The intermingling of heavily laden gravel trucks driving through the retail traffic is going to spill mud and gravel along a beautifully redeveloped section of Stringtown Road, leaving a mess of broken windshields in its wake."
Compton said the landowner, Dick Jones, has operated a small-scale topsoil business on the site for years and the zoning appeals board has no problems with the continuation of the business or Jones. However, he said there are major concerns expanding the topsoil operation into a large-scale quarry.
According to the attorney, the proposed quarry location is dissimilar to other industrial quarries along Frank Road or near the former trash-burning power plant complex since that area is already heavily industrialized. Compton said Jones’ proposed quarry would be located in a farmland section of route 104 that is more rural, residential, and scenic than the Frank Road corridor.
"Since the landowner did not have success in this effort (rezoning the site for the quarry) in 2007 with the Jackson Township Zoning Commission, he has now turned his sights to annexing the land for development into Columbus," stated Compton. "The owner is represented by his attorney and former Columbus Mayor Buck Rinehart. The owner said that they will not pursue this project if there is opposition. Everyone that we encounter has told us they are opposed to this quarry, but still this annexation petition is moving forward."
Legislation up before Columbus’ council was an ordinance providing municipal services to the site, but not an acceptance of the land for annexation, which would come at a later date. However, at the request of Councilwoman Maryellen O’Shaughnessy, the ordinance was pulled from the council’s Oct. 27 agenda for further discussion. In response to the city’s action, Franklin County Commissioners also pulled the annexation from their November agenda.
Countering a letter sent by Jackson Township Administrator Mike Lilly to Mayor Michael Coleman outlining the township’s opposition to the quarry, Jones sent correspondence to community members explaining the intention of the Jones Fuel Company to develop the site, sell a 250-foot setback along the Scioto River to Columbus for one dollar to assist in the extension of the Bike/Greenways Trails program, and later donate the lake when the quarry ceases operation.
Jones purchased the 89-plus acre site in 1982 when it was part of Franklin County and subject to county zoning. He reported the intent was always to use a large portion of the site for topsoil extraction and gravel quarrying whenever the company determined it was economically viable, which is now.
"The most logical and appropriate use for this type of land is the extraction of natural resources," wrote Jones. "This type of land has precious few other economically viable uses. Natural resources have been extracted from this type of area for decades, as it is the close proximity to a major waterway that creates the gravel deposits.
"In fact, directly across the Scioto River from the site is a quarry lake created from quarrying. Just north of the property is a similar quarry lake. The proposal is not asking to place a quarry operation at a site surrounded by homes or numerous other commercial businesses. The proposal is for gravel quarrying on a site adjacent to other quarries. Not only is quarrying a compatible use for this site, it is one of the only uses for this site."
In his correspondence, Jones stated the company will comply with Ohio Department of Transportation regulations requiring gravel trucks are covered by tarps to ensure gravel does not escape and cause damage.
"No evidence exists that gravel trucks cause accidents more than any other type of truck," contended Jones. It is far more likely that the semi-trucks used by the ‘big box’ stores along the Stringtown Road corridor will cause accidents on Stringtown Road."
Herlihy’s company is located on Jackson Pike, not far from the current Jones Fuel Company operation and was not happy with the proposed gravel quarry.
"I have made an investment in my community," Herlihy told the trustees. "He (Jones) gets to operate a business and not make any improvements. We had the same conversation seven years ago about topsoil, and here we’re back again with gravel. The area looks so tired; it’s the wear and tear on the neighborhood.
"I did everything to be in compliance and he gets away with just putting in a driveway."
Trustees are planning to hold a public meeting within the next two weeks to discuss the proposed gravel quarry operation.