EUREKA — What could have become a contentious debate about gravel-pit development in western Woodford County has evolved into a mutual admiration society.
“Very cordial, very cooperative and very gentlemanly,” Mike Blunier said Wednesday about negotiations between his construction operation and some of its neighbors.
Said Dan Schroeder, a Peoria attorney who represents one of those neighbors: “Mike Blunier is a wonderful guy and a class act.”
Blunier and Schroeder spoke one night after the Woodford County Zoning Board of Appeals contributed to the sweetness and light by approving 5-0 a petition that allows Peoria Concrete Construction Co. to expand its gravel-mining operation.
The petition allows Peoria Concrete to mine farmland immediately south of its facility along Illinois Route 26 near Bayview Gardens. The plan is designed to help mitigate effects on three residential properties along Sunset Drive, adjacent to the Illinois River and just southwest of the proposed mine.
Schroeder and Woodford County Zoning Administrator Kim Holmes indicated the homeowners were opposed to gravel-pit encroachment.
“If a gravel pit is going to come, they wanted certain special-use conditions,” Holmes said.
The proposal calls for Peoria Concrete’s mining operations to veer east, then south on the L-shaped, 97-acre property, away from the residences. The closest house would be almost 500 feet from proposed excavation, according to documents Holmes provided.
An 8-foot-high earthen berm would be constructed on the west side of the excavation site, the special-use conditions state. The conditions also call for a setback of 150 feet from property lines, limit the type of construction equipment used, prohibit new access roads and restrict mining to certain hours and days.
The agreement requires approval from the Woodford County Board, which during its February meeting is expected to consider it.
The term of the proposed agreement is 30 years. Blunier anticipates the land can support gravel mining for that length of time.
“It depends on what Mother Nature puts where,” said Blunier, vice president and general manager of Peoria Concrete and its parent, Roanoke Concrete Products Co.
A clay seam discovered about five years ago on Peoria Concrete’s current property lowered that mine’s life expectancy, Blunier said.
Should the proposed agreement be violated, financial penalties are to go to Riverview Consolidated School District 2, according to Schroeder.
“Hopefully, they never get a dime,” said Schroeder, who represents affected homeowner Charles MacDonald.
“They were afraid someone might try to make money off them by claiming they were violating operating conditions,” Schroeder said about Blunier’s firm. “This takes it out of that realm and puts it above board.”
Blunier said it probably will be at least a year before mining begins on the land his firm does not own. Royalties will be paid to the owner, he said.
According to Schroeder, the agreement is designed to benefit anybody living near the current and proposed gravel pits, not just the affected homeowners. Blunier doesn’t appear to have a problem with that.
“We’re coming into their neighborhood,” he said. “We want to be good neighbors. We came to a compromise everybody felt comfortable with.”