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Tension high at meeting about proposed mine

Friday, November 9, 2007

Rural homeowners seeking peace and quiet in the country clashed with proposed industrial development at the Putnam County Plan Commission meeting Thursday evening.

About 50 people who live near the 135-acre plot in Cloverdale Township on County Road 1000 South that Buzzi Unicem wants to use for a shale mine turned out to voice their opposition to the cement company's proposal to rezone the land from agriculture to mineral extraction.

In the end, after hearing about an hour and half of questions and comments, board members voted 6-0 to table Buzzi's petition so County Planner Kim Hyten can address some of the public's concerns.

Residents, many of them visibly frustrated, told board members that they feared a shale mine would ruin the environmental quality of the area, add dangerous traffic to the local roads and significantly lower the value of their homes.

However, the biggest concern was what the mine would do the tranquility of the area.

"The whole reason we moved out here is the quality of life," said Brian Knapp, a homeowner whose property borders the Buzzi land.

Plan Commission members listened to comments from at least a dozen people in the packed room, all the while clearly wary of losing control of the crowd.

Phyllis Brown, in addition to her concerns and protests, submitted a petition through which 124 local residents expressed their opposition to the mine.

Lee Stewart said he worries that since Hanson Aggregates already operates a limestone mine close by, the addition of a second mine would make the area prime for more industrial operations and mining.

Buzzi consultant Willie McGuire fielded each question and calmly answered, falling back many times on assurances that the mine would be heavily regulated and that mining machines would limit their work to daytime hours.

The consensus in the crowd seemed to be that Buzzi's rezoning petition would be approved, so speakers urged board members to place restrictions on the operation of the mine. The board also voted unanimously to recommend that County Commissioners approve a new horse-friendly subdivision near Heritage Lake, on the condition that the property owners conduct a new survey of the property.

Finally, Shane Burkhardt, with Indianapolis planning firm American Structurepoint, presented the board with the new Putnam County Land Use Plan.

In broad strokes, the plan attempts to guide county planners and help them to focus new population growth around existing residential areas, foster commercial and industrial development near major thoroughfares and preserve as much of the county's farmland as possible.

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