Swann responds

Mayor says city isn’t ‘wasting’ money but protecting citizens

Maryville Mayor Joe Swann on Feb. 15 issued a written statement countering Vulcan’s claims that the city was wasting money in defending a lawsuit the quarry company brought to be able to move its operations to another part of its property.

Swann’s letter was in response to a letter Vulcan sent on Feb. 12 to 4,000 homes in Maryville regarding the Court Street quarry. The mayor said the letter is from him as mayor, and not from the Maryville City Council. The letter reads as follows:

From: Joe Swann, Mayor, City of Maryville

Feb 15, 2008

This is a response to the charge that the City of Maryville is “wasting” money in its lawsuit to prevent the expansion of the quarry owned by Vulcan Materials, Inc. It is the job of the city to enforce its zoning laws and to protect citizens from operations that diminish the quiet enjoyment of their homes and property. The expansion of a large-scale mining operation inside the city limits is not compatible with the environment of urban neighborhoods.

Instead of requesting a zoning change to allow expansion of the quarry, Vulcan sued the City of Maryville in an attempt to circumvent long-standing zoning regulations that have prevented the quarry from extending its operations. A zoning hearing would allow citizen input and give Vulcan an opportunity to state their case for an expansion. Corporations with extensive legal and public relations resources can exert a lot of pressure on citizens and governments to get what they want when other avenues of due process look less promising.

The proposed expansion could make a bad situation of dust, noise, blasting, blue line stream destruction and geological destabilization in neighborhoods around the quarry a far worse nuisance than they are today and would allow them to continue for a much longer time. Dust and noise are not confined to the trucks, often traveling day and night on busy inner-city streets with houses close to the road. Increasing noise and dust from the quarry site is also an issue to those who can hear operations that start before daylight and often continue until after midnight.

Blasting is a known cause of cracks in ceilings, walls and foundations. Numerous sinkholes, like the ones that have appeared along Duncan Branch adjacent to the quarry on the Duncan farm, are known to result from changes in underground water levels associated with proximity to quarry pits. Dust from trucks spread a limestone and diesel fuel film onto houses and automobiles all along the truck routes. Noise from heavy truck traffic at all times of the day and night, rock crushers, back up beepers, conveyors, and other quarrying equipment are nuisances to residents who live near the quarry. Furthermore, dust and noise affect busy inner-city streets as trucks from the quarry come and go constantly. City streets are not intended to handle the weight and volume of constant heavy-duty truck traffic, which creates a daily nuisance for residents along the routes to and from the quarry site. City taxpayers foot the bill to repair the damage created by the intense volume and weight of truck traffic on these roads.

The quarry negatively affects our city’s natural environment. Vulcan mined through a blue line stream, Duncan Branch, and now controls the flow of water in the stream. Contrary to the statements of Stan Bass of Vulcan, the stream begins at points beyond the Vulcan property then runs into the quarry pit. The stream then depends on pumps and conveyances to get water back into its streambed at the other end of the Vulcan site. Vulcan frequently allows the stream to run completely dry for long periods of time, killing almost all aquatic life that lives in the stream. Some days, the stream will flow briskly as it did for hundreds of years before the quarry mined into it, and the next it may be completely dry and may stay that way for weeks.

This blue line stream has become Vulcan’s ditch instead of the free-flowing stream that watered stock on the Duncan farm and ran through the college woods. Vulcan acts as if they are doing us a favor by putting water back into the creek. If riparian water rights are not sacred then what is? Are these the actions of a responsible corporate citizen or is this indicative of a general attitude toward public resources?

The hard working Lambert Brothers began the Duncan Road quarry to supply rock to a fast-growing post World War II economy. The quarry was located on what was then the outskirts of the city on land owned by the prominent Trotter family. The quarrying operations of the Lamberts were very successful, and with truly visionary leadership, the brothers formed alliances with Vulcan Materials Co. in the 1960s. The Lambert family played an important role in that company’s creation and success. We are a far better community for the Lambert and Trotter families who continue to support and contribute to this community.

In the past 20 years there has been a change in the attitude of the people who operate the quarry. As Vulcan grew into a multi-national company, efforts were made to expand the quarry in 1987. Those efforts were met with stiff opposition by some 600 residents who, supported by the Maryville City Council, were able to stop the expansion.

Individual citizens who experience daily problems of varying degrees are daunted when trying to address these problems with Vulcan. If the city government cannot or will not help them, then who is going to represent their interests against the resources of Vulcan?

Vulcan’s response

Vulcan Mid-South division president Stan Bass responded in writing to Swann’s letter.

“Operating as a good corporate citizen and a steward of the environment are core values of Vulcan Materials Co. We have served the Maryville community for over 60 years and have worked diligently to be a good neighbor.

“We believe the rights of people are very important and we are convinced that the grandfathered property rights of the Trotter family and Vulcan are important to defend.

“We stand behind our message to the citizens of Maryville, and despite Mayor Swann’s comments, remain hopeful that we can work together to resolve our dispute.”

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