Tuesday, January 21, 2014
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Mining appeal: Motions brought to a close; judge takes over

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[January 21, 2014]  Last week, court hearings in an appeal addressing issues in the potential mining of limestone west of Lincoln were brought to a close, yet unfinished.

More than a year ago, on Dec. 18, 2012, the Logan County Board approved the zoning change on 280 acres owned by Douglas Muck and Kaellyn Arch.

Stephen and Pamela Schreiner filed a civil suit on March 18, 2013, naming the Logan County Board and the landowners. The Schreiners, who live and farm across from the where the mine would be located, are concerned about the potential effects on the water supply and the possible loss of water to their farming industry and home.

The case is being argued before Judge William Yoder.

There have now been five hearings, with the first in June of 2013 and the one previous to this in October 2013. Progress was initially slowed by misplaced and wayward notifications, changes in legal representation, and then bogged down in preliminary motions addressing jurisdiction.

Yoder closed the hearing in October with an attempt to move the matter forward by creating a clean slate, asking that new motions be filed and that all parties be present and ready to move forward at the next hearing.

When everyone was assembled Jan. 13, all were present with one addition. Jason T. Germeraad of Scott and Scott, Springfield, had been added to represent Arch. Arch was previously represented by her brother, Douglas Muck, who is an attorney. Muck continued to represent himself in this case.

The county continued to be represented by State's Attorney Jonathan Wright.

Stephen and Pamela Schreiner were present, with their representation provided by Stephen Hedinger of Sorling Northrup, Springfield.

Yoder said at the outset that he had allowed one hour for the lawyers’ presentations and asked if that would be sufficient for everyone. All present agreed.

The court hearings have mirrored the public hearings and reviews during the request to change the zoning of the land for the purpose of extraction: mining limestone. That process was also time-consuming with legal complexities and delays.

Between Sept. 6, 2012, and Dec. 18, 2012, the process included presentations before the regional planning commission, planning and zoning committee, zoning board of appeals, and finally the Logan County Board, all totaling umpteen hours of presentations.

From the outset, the intention to mine at the new site, which is approximately 1 mile east of the old quarry, has drawn considerable attention. Nearby farmers and residents have concerns about potential effects. Mine workers and those with local economic interests favor its development.

The first two public hearings of the county's appeals board packed the Beason Township garage to overflowing. People stood outside in the growing dark to listen in. The hearings were exceptionally long, each lasting approximately three hours. The time spent and progress made from these hearings was scrapped when it was noted that certain neighboring property owners had not received proper notification.

There were several more public hearings of similar length.

Starting all over again, the hearings were moved to a larger space at West Lincoln-Broadwell School and continued to grow in attention that left people standing outside. With each hearing, more lawyers and experts appeared. People arrived with the heat of the day and the setting sun, but left in the solid dark with a chill in the air.

When all were finally heard, the appeals board made its decision, "No recommendation," to the county board.

The presentation before the county board went in much the same way: long.

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Jan. 13 was the fifth court hearing in the civil case and, as it would turn out, the last.

Motions regarding flawed initial procedures continued. In the midst of this, Muck said that the company that was interested in doing the mining, Hanson Materials, had pulled out some time ago when it was taking too long to get approval. He has, however, considered looking for another company or perhaps mining the land himself.

Arguments spilled into rounds of illustrating and pressing violations in statutes of limitation. Frustrations over the lack of progress were aimed and refuted back-and-forth for over an hour with no sign of getting to the discovery phase anytime soon — "discovery" being when the actual issues in the case would be discussed.

In wrapping up, the lawyers from Lincoln, Muck and Wright, said that the power outage on Friday had cut into some of the time they had reserved for their preparations.

Yoder was understanding of the unforeseen interruption, as he, too, had endured the all-afternoon loss. In the interest of equality, he said he would allow each lawyer involved from all parties to submit written responses in the next seven days, which he would read.

Rather than permitting further delaying motions, gesturing toward a large stack of file folders, Yoder announced that he would read the documentation on his own, make his decision on the merits of the case and then provide a written ruling.


Articles on rezoning request

From 2012:

From 2013:

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