After years of complaints from Junction City residents, and months of back-and-forth, the Planning Commission voted on Thursday, Oct. 14, once again, to revoke the permit at the Smith Pit Tailings Mine project site.
The permit had been in revoked status — save for allowing one ongoing county contract to continue — since an April 8 Planning Commission hearing. Current operators at the Smith Pit, Trinity Sand and Gravel, then appealed the decision to the Board of Supervisors, which, during its July 7 meeting, sent it back to the commission with the stipulation that Commissioner Duncan McIntosh be recused from the hearing.
The primary complaints from Junction City residents have included excessive noise levels from equipment that was never supposed to be at the operation in the first place and from hauling trucks going to and from the pit during in-school hours for nearby Junction City Elementary. Other complaints include impacted air quality from kicked up dust and concerns for the river which some residents say the operation has encroached upon past a 100-foot setback agreed to in the permit.
Nearly 20 people showed up or spoke via Zoom during public comment in favor of revoking the permit, including one Junction City Elementary student as well as Christine Camara, the school’s superintendent and principal.
“If you do not revoke this permit you will be putting our community at risk. You will be allowing dangerous semi-truck traffic along our students’ route to school… You will be allowing the noise and truck traffic to disrupt our students’ learning,” Camara said.
“If you have any concerns for the safety and well being of our students and our community you will revoke the permit…. and end the Trinity Sand and Gravel operations,” she said.
Attorney for Trinity Sand and Gravel, Jeff Swanson, conceded that some infractions may have occurred depending on interpretations of the original Conditional Use Permit, but that efforts had been made to remedy them and that modification of the permit was preferable to revocation.
With public comment complete, the commission spoke only briefly before voting to revoke the permit for a second time. Commissioner McHugh, who also shared that this would be his last commission meeting before resigning, gave his opinion.
“Violations withstanding,” McHugh said. “Having read through all of this stuff… Having thought it all through again, this has so far outgrown what was originally planned. It’s not a modification of the permit. It’s a new CEQA. New permit.”
The commission then voted 4-0 to revoke the permit with commissioner McIntosh recused.
With the appeal having been sent back to the Planning Commission by the Board of Supervisors with no other formal ruling from the board, Trinity Sand and Gravel can legally appeal the Planning Commission’s decision once again back to the board.
Trinity Sand and Gravel was unable to be reached before printing for comment as to if they may pursue a second appeal.