By Joe Barker

Missourian Staff Writer

Opponents of a proposed gravel mine operation near St. Clair are going to court.

Kim Lynch, Nick Norman, Hootie’s Rescue Haven and the Citizens for the Preservation of the Meramec River LLC have filed a suit in Franklin County Associate Circuit Court to prevent the opening of a Meramec Aggregates’ mining operation.

Franklin County, the Franklin County Planning and Zoning Commission, the Franklin County Board of Adjustment and Meramec Aggregates are named as defendants in the suit. The suit was filed May 25.

The suit targets the ability of Meramec Aggregates, owned by Lyn Havin, to operate at a site located at 102/109 River Cabin Road on the south side of the intersection of Mill Hill Road and Cove Creek Road near St. Clair.

The group opposing the project has fought its approval every step of the way.

Meramec Aggregates requested a conditional use permit (CUP) to operate a gravel mine late in 2016. The CUP was awarded despite opposition from Norman, Lynch and other members of the Concerned Citizens.

Lynch and the Concerned Citizens appealed the decision to the Franklin County Board of Zoning Adjustment (BOZA). The permit was upheld in April.

The group opposing the permit has argued against it for a number of reasons.

The group has said numerous times it doesn’t think the increase of truck traffic brought on by the plant is good for the community. It argues the already unsafe roads would be made more dangerous with large trucks making a number of trips daily.

The opponents also have argued the plant would disturb nature and endangered bats.

The permitting process itself also is being questioned. The group argued in front of BOZA that the planning and zoning commission never actually awarded the permit because of an error following Robert’s Rules of Order.

Kim Lynch said in April when the plan board voted in December it was deadlocked in a 5-5 tie. After a discussion, the board revoted and Commissioner Bill McLaren flipped his vote, giving Meramec Aggregates the CUP by a 6-4 vote.

She said according to Robert’s Rules of Order, a certain procedure had to be followed in order to get a revote. Based on transcripts, she said the board failed to follow the Rules of Order, meaning the 6-4 vote was improper.

Lynch cited a case of City of San Antonio vs. El Dorado Amusement Co. Inc. as precedent. She said in that case the courts found that the second vote was improper and invalid.

Lynch argued that if the second vote was invalid, the permit never passed. She said a tie is not an approval by county bylaws, therefore her group should have never had to file an appeal.

The opponents also have claimed a number of parties involved in the process have had conflicts of interest that prevent them from voting. The petition filed in circuit court alleges that county counselor Mark Vincent and several members of the planning and zoning commission and BOZA have ties with Meramec Aggregates.