A Board of Adjustment has sent an Anchor Point gravel pit application back to the Kenai Peninsula Borough Planning Commission for further review, saying there was credible evidence that operating a pit under the conditions outlined in the permit was more likely than not to result in damage to the underlying aquifer and to neighboring drinking water wells.
The property proposed as a materials excavation site is on land northeast of downtown Anchor Point. There are at least nine wells within 300 feet. Portions of the 19.3 acres parcel are wetlands.
The decision is a partial victory for several surrounding landowners who sought the hearing before the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assem-bly in its capacity as a board of adjustment following the April 28 decision by the planning commission to issue the land-use permit.
Anchor Point resident Merriam Warrington and six other co-appellants urged the board to deny the permit saying the permittees, Cecil and Ina Jones, failed to meet permit requirements or provide assurance the aquifer would not be disturbed.
Warrington said she has not had a chance to read and digest the board's ruling, but said it appears the board is sympathetic to the concerns of neighboring property owners.
"I think they are doing everything they can do because they have to follow the (borough) code," Warrington said. "It shows understanding."
Borough code permits sand, gravel or material sites provided certain conditions are met. Among those are that no material extraction should occur within 100 feet of existing water sources, and further that within 300 feet of a water source, extraction can go no deeper than two feet above the seasonal high water groundwater table. The code requires that extraction be done in a manner that "minimizes disturbing an aquifer."
Board members said they are convinced the Jones' proposal and the permit granted by the planning commission "are deficient in so far as substantial, credible evidence reveals more probably than not, that the aquifer will be disturbed in more than a minimal fashion and that there will be a negative effect and impact upon the aquifer and therefore upon adjoining wells."
The board remanded the permit application back to the planning commission to resolve the degree of impact and to impose additional conditions on the permit.
Among the issues the commission is directed to consider are reassessing measures for determining the level of impact, reassessing why the permit should not specifically preclude excavation within 300 feet of nearby wells, reassess why the Joneses had not supplied a detailed site map and work plan and why the Joneses should not be required to erect berms surrounding wetlands.
Further, the board ordered the commission to determine if the borough code allows the commission to require bonding to ensure prompt response to dewatering incidents and bonding to cover damage to adjoining wells. If the code permits those conditions, the board wants them imposed on the permit.
Warrington said she hopes the commission will do an about face and deny the permit outright. She said she would have to examine the board's ruling in detail and review the borough code before commenting on possible commission decisions that might fall short of denial.
An effort Wednesday to reach the Joneses was not successful.
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