MOUNT VERNON — Bobby Small wore a big frown Thursday during parts of his meeting with the Knox County Commissioners and Regional Planning Commission director Darrel Severns. The meeting was an informational session to determine what had gone wrong with Small’s proposal to use excess fill dirt from his gravel-mining operation to construct a dike to outline a gravel pit that could someday become a park for the citizens of Knox County.
“I was just trying to do the public a service,” Small said. Now, he said it is costing him money to have to defend his plan and appeal it to the Regional Planning Commission, which ruled that the plan was not within Knox County’s floodplain regulation standards.
The original plan, developed by Small with the assistance of Uwe Seeler of Mine Services Co., Inc., of Danville, and engineered by Doyle Hartman of Hartman Engineering in Delaware, was to outline sections of Small’s Sand and Gravel, Inc., along Killduff and Stull roads on the border of Howard and Harrison Townships with a 4 1/2 to 5 five foot earthen dike. These areas are currently being mined for gravel.
Small sells the rich topsoil and then has the option of either doing something with the fill dirt, such as building the proposed dike, or merely dumping it back into the pit from which the gravel was mined.
Small’s idea was to spread the fill around as a dike, allowing the gravel pits to fill up with water and eventually become lakes with surrounding park land, adjacent to the Kokosing River in an area that has already become a prime nesting site for bald eagles. This idea had previously received the support and encouragement of the county commissioners and seemed to be on track for meeting the regulatory demands of Severns, thus Small said he didn’t mind paying an engineer and consultant fees to prepare the plans correctly.
To the shock of both Small and the commissioners, however, Severns ended up ruling against the plan, despite having advised Hartman and Seeler about regulatory requirements. Hartman said that as far as he could tell, he had met the requirements Severns had outlined.
“What changed?” Small asked. After considerable roundabout discussion, Severns said that ultimately it came down to the fact that his interpretation of the regulations was influenced by the advice given by his fellow RPC member Richard Stallard.
Severns advised Small to appeal the ruling to the RPC appeals committee, which consists of five of the RPC members, including Stallard.
Commissioner Teresa Bemiller asked why specifically the plan was denied. Severns said that the design does not necessarily allow for enough “compensatory storage” for the fill dirt that is being removed and redistributed. He added that it was important for RPC to ensure that a structure like this would not force floodwaters elsewhere in the floodplain. Commissioner Allen Stockberger said that the county’s floodplain regulations were initially set up because insurance companies refused to offer policies in vulnerable areas, until they were regulated.
Hartman and Seeler both expressed disappointment that there was not more clarity from RPC up front about how they were going to interpret the regulations. Harman said that, following the advice given him by everyone involved, including RPC, he had designed the dike to withstand up to a once-in-a-century flood event, but then found it rejected for not being engineered to allow for the flooding of one- to five-year storm events.
“There’s an internal conflict about how to administer this,” Severns said, without identifying exactly where the conflict lies, though he again mentioned that Stallard was very vocal in opposing it. He added that if the RPC appeals committee refused to overturn the ruling, the matter could be taken to common pleas court.
Small rejected that outright. “I can’t spend any more money on this,” he said. “If you don’t want this, tell me now. It’d be cheaper just to dump the dirt right back into the pit.”
Commissioner Robert Wise expressed strong disappointment with RPC’s ruling and said that Small still had the commissioners’ support if he chose to go forward with the appeal. Stockberger urged Small to go forward with the appeal to the RPC appeals committee.
“I hope you continue with the process,” Stockberger said, adding that he thinks the situation can still be worked out. Wise said that they as a board still support the plan unanimously, and plan on attending the appeal meeting, which will rule by a majority vote of the five-member committee.
Small relented and said that he would take his plan to the appeal committee.
In other business, Roger Reed submitted a report to the commissioners showing that kennel intake at the county dog pound has risen from 64 in January to 116 in March. This largest portion of these numbers comes from strays captured in the field.