DENISE CROSBY: Chesterfield residents kept in dark on mining expansion
BY DENISE CROSBY firstname.lastname@example.org October 3, 2013 5:18PM
Entrance to Chesterfield subdivision off Butterfield Road near Route 25 in North Aurora.
Updated: November 5, 2013 6:26AM
Patty Graw can’t help but feel as if she failed her subdivision.
The president of Chesterfield Homeowners Association fought long and hard two years ago to keep a stone mining company from extending its blasting project that residents insisted would affect this North Aurora community of houses right off Route 25.
So when she read in th Beacon-News last week that the Village Board approved the mine expansion, she was shocked.
She was surprised not just that LaFarge North America can now begin mining underneath an L-shaped Commonwealth Edison right of way near the subdivision, but that the news article indicated no residents showed up at this recent meeting.
There were no homeowners because “we did not know about it,” said Graw of the vote that recently went before the Village Board. “If we would have known, believe me, there would have been plenty of people there.”
(While working on this story, I realized this is the subdivision where my daughter lives; but when I asked her about it, she was unaware of the issue or of any problems.)
North Aurora’s Community Development Director Mike Toth said the village followed “the letter of the law” with the hearings, including sending a notification letter to the HOA, posting a sign and publishing the information in the newspaper.
But Chesterfield’s Wheaton-based attorney, Nick Nelson, who describes the situation as “frustrating and unusual,” says there’s big questions about where those notices were sent.
For one thing, he and Graw say, this recent public hearing sign was posted in a different spot than the one that went up two years ago; and it was more than a mile away from the Chesterfield subdivision entrance where residents would have seen it. As for that letter of notification? No one who is associated with Chesterfield received the notice, they insist.
The registered agent listed with the Secretary of State’s office for the homeowners association is Kelly Henry, who works for Baum Propery Services on Galena Boulevard in Aurora, said Nelson. But the village, he continued, sent a letter to a Libertyville address that has no connection to Baum; then a second letter was later mailed to a Post Office Box address that, while associated with Baum, was not affiliated with Henry, nor is her name associated with it. Henry said she never received any such letter.
Bottom line, he said, “The notification letter was obviously sent to the wrong place,” so how could the homeowners know anything about it. And the fact “no homeowners were in the audience,” he added, “should have raised plenty of eyebrows.”
That’s because two years ago, residents were “lined up out the door voicing their concerns until 10:30 at night,” recalled Nelson. And those concerns were many, including dust covering their properties and blasting from underground dymaniting they feared could crack their foundations, sewer pipes and even create a huge explosion in their gas lines.
“People feel the vibrations,” said Graw, adding these blasts go off every day between 3 and 4 p.m. And they have gotten stronger, she said, since LaFarge began mining underneath the 65-foot wide setback between the original quarry and the subdivision over two years ago.
That swell of homeowner opposition, Nelson believes, lead to the Board’s rejection of the expansion in 2011. And now they are accusing the village of deliberately keeping them in the dark this time around.
Toth said he wasn’t surprised residents didn’t show up to oppose the expansion this time, since these modified plans established a no-mining zone along the north border of the mine to keep blasting operations at least 1,000 feet away from the nearest homes and gas lines.
He pointed out the state and federal government also have jurisdiction over any mining activity; and that LaFarge’s proposal passed all safety regulations.
But Graw says this issue is more than about concerns about gas lines blowing up.
“The sad part is, these are citizens trying to be actively involved,” he said. “Yet they were kept in the dark.”