Columbus officials expect new application from sand excavator

Forest Lake Contracting resumes work; trucks following two routes


Paul Rignell
Columbus Reporter

Columbus city staff reported to council members July 24 that Forest Lake Contracting has agreed to submit a new application for an interim use permit to work at the John’s Black Dirt site.

The Forest Lake company’s excavation rights at that property involve the removal of sand from existing pits and hauling that material for use in off-site jobs that include a project now underway on Lexington Avenue.

For previous jobs over several decades, including work on the Washington County Road 83 overpass in 2010, Forest Lake Contracting directed its trucks to haul materials from John’s Black Dirt via 189th Avenue out to Kettle River Boulevard.

That access was closed to truck traffic for this summer, however, when the Wyoming City Council voted June 18 to put 5-ton weight limits on certain roads including 250th Street, which separates 189th Avenue from all other routes.

The John’s Black Dirt pits began the season with an estimated 490,000 cubic yards of extractable materials, and Forest Lake Contracting withdrew one interim use permit application from Columbus in June when neighbors objected to the firm’s stated plan for continued hauling over 10 years.

Stretching the work over three years would be too much for Columbus residents, according to an informal poll taken by Mayor Dave Povolny at a meeting July 10. Most of those in attendance agreed that they would find a removal of all remaining materials over just 12 months to be reasonable.

Without an interim use permit, the company’s excavation terms are bound only by a conditional use permit with no required time line.

Julie Perrus, representing legal counsel from Columbus’ contracted office of Larkin Hoffman, said at the July 24 meeting that Forest Lake Contracting announced it would submit a new  interim use permit application within 30 days.

“It did set the tone that they are not going to kick their heels in (with opposition),” Povolny said. “They are going to work with us.”

City staff said that in the meantime, trucks were going to resume operations from the site July 29 after another access was built or reopened on the south end, at 186th Avenue.

The company is limiting traffic to three trucks per hour, according to staff, and following two different routes of Tulane and Vassar streets that both connect the new access with 181st Avenue and Kettle River Boulevard.

“They realize that if they brought all their truck traffic down one road, it would impact (one) set of neighbors to the largest degree,” City Administrator Elizabeth Mursko said.

Those neighbors contended at a previous meeting that the ends of those roads near John’s Black Dirt are too narrow for the trucks, certainly not wide enough for a car to pass a moving truck. Some residents pledged July 24 that in the event they should face a truck traveling from the other end, the truck driver can be the one to pull into a driveway or onto a slight shoulder until the resident motorist passes.

A few residents thanked the council that night for its proactive work. Still, others said they will stay disappointed with the council as long as the city continues to allow the hauling.

“It seems like there’s absolutely no other idea than to give (Forest Lake Contracting) whatever they want,” said a resident from Vassar Street. “I’m crushed that I have to live there with what’s going to come, and I know it’s coming.”

Povolny spoke optimistically about a new permit on the way, though he added neither the company nor the neighbors may end up pleased with its time line.

“It will be too fast for them. It will be too slow for you,” he said.