County Opposes Lyndon Twp. Mineral Mining

A mineral mining proposal in Lyndon Township received formal opposition from the Washtenaw County board of commissioners at its March 19, 2014 meeting.

On a majority vote, the board passed a resolution that “formally opposes the establishment of the proposed McCoig Materials mining operation in Lyndon Township on the basis of the very serious negative consequences to the surrounding communities.” The company is proposing a sand and gravel mine on 189 acres north of Chelsea on M-52. The rural site is located near several parks and nature areas, including  Waterloo State Recreation Area, the Pinckney State Recreation Area, Park Lyndon, the Green Lake Camping area, and the Waterloo-Pinckney Hiking Trail.

McCoig is asking Lyndon Township for special land use zoning and has submitted an application for a mineral mining operation. Public hearings on the issue have drawn heavy opposition. On its website, the township has noted that its authority is limited:

Michigan State Legislators have greatly reduced township control by passing Act 110 of 2006 (125.3205). Under that law, the township must not “prevent the extraction, by mining, of valuable natural resources from any property unless very serious consequences would result from the extraction of those natural resources. Natural resources are considered valuable for the purposes of this section if a person, by extracting the natural resources, can receive revenue and reasonably expect to operate at a profit.” The township’s authority is limited to “reasonable regulation of hours of operation, blasting hours, noise levels, dust control measures, and traffic that are not preempted by part 632 of the Michigan environmental laws,” 1994 PA 451, MCL 324.63201 to 324.63223.

The county board’s resolution addresses these issues, stating in its whereas clauses that “the noise, dust, air pollution, and additional heavy traffic generated by the operation of the mine and the transportation of the minerals will likely have serious negative consequences for the natural environment and wildlife …” [.pdf of full resolution]

The issue was also raised during the March 11, 2014 meeting of the Washtenaw County parks & recreation commission. WCPARC director Bob Tetens subsequently sent a letter to Lyndon Township supervisor Mark Keezer outlining several concerns with the project. [.pdf of Tetens letter] The letter indicates that WCPARC is willing to purchase the property.

During deliberations on March 19, Dan Smith (R-District 2) objected to the county board weighing in on an issue that’s not within its purview. Conan Smith (D-District 9) argued that because the county owns land in that township, it has a vested interest. Yousef Rabhi (D-District 8) said it was a broader community issue that should be a concern for all residents. Kent Martinez-Kratz (D-District 1) – who represents a district that includes Lyndon Township – described it as an economic and environmental issue.

When called on to vote, Dan Smith (R-District 2) did not vote yes or no, but instead stated “present.” Martinez-Kratz asked corporation counsel Curtis Hedger for clarification about how Smith’s vote would be recorded. The board rules state that a commissioner must vote yes or no unless there’s a conflict of interest, but Hedger noted that there’s no mechanism to enforce it. He characterized Smith’s vote as a “soft no.” It will be recorded that Smith stated “present,” Hedger said, with a note about the board rules.

Alicia Ping (R-District 3) was absent from the meeting.

This brief was filed from the boardroom of the county administration building at 220 N. Main St. in Ann Arbor. A more detailed report will follow: [link]