Friday, May 22, 2015

M'am! We've Already Answered Your Question! (So Sit Down and Shut Up)

Something terrible and ugly is coming to the neighborhood - strip mining for limestone - directly across the road. I simply cannot express the full depth of my dismay.

The notification came in the mail a couple of weeks ago. The Wabaunsee County Planning Commission would be holding a public hearing to consider a Conditional Use Permit to establish a ledge rock quarry - directly at the end of my drive way. It felt like a blow to the gut.

All that noise! Traffic. Huge machinery. Dust. The methodical destruction of the prairie. The peace and quiet I so dearly love destroyed, possibly for several years. My deepest disappointment is that the beautiful view I have lived with and loved will be utterly destroyed and permanently changed.

Yes, the land must be restored and reseeded with native plants. Eventually the earth will heal. But those of us who live next to this property will have to endure living with the ugliness and destruction of a rock ledge quarry for however many years it may take to utterly exhaust the limestone, fill the earth back into the holes, and wait for nature to run her course.

It was the first time I have ever attended a zoning hearing but it went as I expected. One landowner is in the process of turning a historical home, guest house and barn into a large event center that can and will serve alcohol. The woman who lives directly across the road told the commission her family moved to the country to live in the country not live across the street from a business. She was definitely opposed. Only one commissioner voted "no" but his vote was not actually in favor of her concerns. He was voting against the Kansas City and Topeka people who would come to the country and "complain about the smell" of cow manure. ? ? ?

Then the order of business turned to the foregone conclusion that the commission would vote in favor of the rock quarry strip mining directly across the road from my property. My next door neighbors live in an old limestone home that could easily be damaged by the slamming and pounding it takes to break the limestone - so it can be hauled to Topeka and Kansas City where the people with the sensitive noses live. The neighbors came prepared with insurance concerns, advice from the State of Kansas geologist, and science in their request that the mining be limited to 500 feet from their old limestone home. The commission took a minute to speed read the letter from my neighbors. I am guessing no one read the letter in its entirety.

Since Wabaunsee County has been allowing the destruction of the prairie for years, no one expected to actually put a stop to it. For me, it was the attitude of the men involved that commenced a smolderin' in my gizzard. Four women spoke. If a woman attempted to speak over a man, the chairman immediately barked an order for her to stop. Not a single man received a public scolding. Indeed, the men accorded nothing but the utmost respect for one another.  The room was full of patronizing attitudes, and the good ol' boy bullshit was so deep I wondered why no one complained of the smell. (No Kansas City or Topeka people present, I assume.)

I believe everyone in the room is a decent human being. The commission members are likely well versed in fending off verbal abuse and keeping the peace when people seriously disagree over zoning issues. The man filing for the conditional permit is surely a good man but his attitude rankled me. He likely makes a nice living strip mining limestone. I wonder how happy he would be if someone spent several years creating an enormous, ugly, noisy mess next door to his home. How tolerant would he be to have his property value negatively impacted by an incredible eyesore? How tolerant would any of the commissioners be if a biker gang or halfway house for meth addicts set up shop next door? I want to live within eye sight and earshot of a rock quarry as much as any of those men would want to live next to a biker gang club house!

I had several questions, and though the men answered, I was not satisfied with every answer. People were tired of the discussion. Each time the chairman tried to move on, I had no choice but to speak up. The last time I did, in his best woman-scolding voice he declared "M'am! We've already answered your question!" The unspoken words "So sit down and shut up" lingered in the air for a brief moment before the order of business moved on.

As far as strip mining goes, grubbing out the limestone is fairly benign and the earth will heal. The commissioners have made a good faith attempt to keep the peace and accommodate and alleviate as many concerns as possible over this issue. I would be very angry if my neighbors were able to put a stop to anything I wanted to do on my own property. But, oh, it would be a great world indeed if the aesthetic objections against living across from a big dance hall or a rock quarry held the same value as a man's desire to destroy the beauty and peace of the neighborhood.

This beautiful scene from the end of my drive way will eventually be strip mined.
Under Assault
Everything on the horizon past these trees will be laid bare and the limestone removed.

1 comment:

Don said...

Here lies another example of "mans' messing up the Earth". I've seen this raping of the hillsides out there to harvest those layers of limestone and it just stirred up a gut feeling in me that the area will never really be the same again. And who knows how many artifacts from the past will get stirred up and relocated as the result of this activity. Are they still building limestone buildings and houses - I doubt it, but these stones probably will adore property and curb-sides and bring a value as good as gold.