Another delay for limestone plant decision

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Questions still linger for neighbors living in Germania Creek Neighborhood Association near a proposed south side limestone processing facility. The project is still on hold despite what was supposed to be a final decision Tuesday regarding the special use petition necessary to allow it.

The parties involved Tuesday—the group behind the facility, as well as  neighbors and legislators—all say the day's action was unexpected.

At the hearing, neighbors thought they were making their final case in their fight against the special use petition. Several took time off work to be able to attend.

Many neighbors were glad to see improvements in the plan of operations, which just one month ago was just four paragraphs long. City staffers at the time approved that plan.

After months of legwork and pushing for meetings between neighbors and the petitioners, the plan now stands at five pages long.

Neighbors, who say they’ve nearly exhausted efforts trying to stand up to a team of lawyers, are frustrated a decision still hasn’t been made.

“We are rather disappointed because we have done our due diligence that this is not a good operation to be this close to a residential community,” said association president Glenda Hueber.

Petitioner Brian Moench of Moench Engineering and the other companies backing the petition, which would allow them to process limestone in connection with the Citizens Energy Deep Rock Tunnel Connector project, were also pushing for a decision Tuesday.

“There starts to be stone coming out of the ground very soon,” said Russell Brown, an attorney acting as legal counsel for the petitioners. “We want to try to have that decision made before that in fact occurs. And it may occur before the next meeting of the BZA.”

Last week, the petitioners told neighbors they requested a continuance to the Division Three Board of Zoning Appeals instead of Division One because their timeline required approval as soon as possible. They argued limestone could start coming out of the ground for phase two of the tunnel connector project this week.

But the delay had to happen because of the many changes the facility agreed to make when it comes to keeping noise and dust to a minimum. Board members said they couldn’t vote on the amended plan without the changes formalized in writing.

“We’ll work to address those and memorialize those concerns that were raised and try to work with Councilor Miller, Representative Moed and neighbors to get some agreement about whether they think those are adequate, reflect the request of the board,” said Brown.

Tuesday, board members had several concerns and questions about monitoring and testing at the site.

Eventually, the group of involved companies agreed to daily monitoring of dust and noise. They also agreed to have a third party do the testing on a regularly scheduled basis.

Both the city-county councilor for that district, Jeff Miller, and the board members, raised concerns about the company itself taking responsibility for testing.

“The only ones saying their health is okay are the ones who want to do this site,” said Jeff Miller. That’s a conflict of interest to be the one saying all your operations look good. You need a third party looking over what you’re doing, testing and making sure things are okay.”

Miller says he’s glad the board paid attention to what he considered missing pieces of the puzzle.

“My biggest concern is that the city staff said a plan of operation is okay, without having a technical expert review it other than the technical experts employed by the petitioner—employed by the people wanting to do this business,” said Miller.

Miller says he hopes this saga teaches the city something about representation for citizens and the need to sort through conflicts of interest when determining the best way forward.

“I hope this is going to be used by the city in the future to figure out how can the city best represent the quality of life for our residents,” said Miller. “It shouldn’t be something where residents have to go to all of these lengths to make sure their quality of life is preserved.”

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