An ordinance transferring the gravel pit property off Route 31 in Cary back to the village was approved Tuesday night.
The village hopes in the fall to open the property previously owned by Lafarge Aggregates, which owns Meyer Material Co., as a park, with trails, fishing piers and picnic areas.
“We’re looking to have the property be open to the public sometime this fall,” Village Administrator Jacob Rife said.
The new agreement gives Lafarge the exclusive mining rights to mineral materials located more than 200 feet below the surface of the property, and it waives the company’s proposed cash penalties.
Per a 2008 agreement, Lafarge could have been fined $100,000 a month if they mined past June 1, 2016. They missed this deadline, though, and in November of that year the company’s mining rights were extended until the end of 2017, said Brian Simmons, Cary director of community development. Lafarge then had until June 1, 2018, to restore the land to its natural state, or they would face the same monthly fee.
Lafarge worked with Cary to correct drainage problems in the area after June 1, 2018, with a final inspection of the area being done on July 31, 2018. This led some to criticize the company for not paying the $200,000 in fines for missing the deadline.
The provision in the agreement allowing Lafarge exclusive mining rights was also of concern to some.
Cary resident Jim Cosler, a former trustee, said the company’s mining caused a lot of noise and dirt, which upset those who lived in the Fox Trails subdivision near the quarry.
“There is a lot of concern over what may happen in the future,” he said, now that Lafarge would be given mining rights to the property.
Cosler also was upset by how the ordinance waived the fines he said Lafarge would have had to pay.
Cary resident Jim Thomas said at the meeting that the issue has been a “huge burden” in his life.
He said he couldn’t put his house on the market because of the gravel pit.
“You can’t enjoy yourself out there, with all the dirt and everything blowing over,” he said. “It was a lot to endure because nobody was taking action for the citizens.”
Mayor Mark Kownick said giving Lafarge exclusive mining rights doesn’t mean they could just “willy-nilly” go in and start drilling. It just meant the village would not be allowed to give these rights to anyone else. The company would still need village approval to mine, and there would have to be a public hearing and approval for this to happen.
Kownick added that this village board has not plans to approve mining rights for Lafarge.
The company also has no desire to mine any further, the mayor said. A spokeswoman for Lafarge confirmed this Wednesday. Jocelyn Gerst, vice president for marketing and communications for Lafarge, said it is standard business practice for the company to maintain exclusive mining rights to prevent its competitors from getting access to it.
“We tendered the deed that’s been in the village of Cary so they can move forward and open up the park,” she said.
When it comes to the waiving of fines owed by the company, Kownick said there is a “fine line” as to whether the company finished its restoration on time or not, and would need to pay fees.
The drainage issues Lafarge had to fix, which led them to go over the original restoration date of June 1, 2018, were not mentioned in the original agreement with the company, Kownick said. These problems were also addressed at Lafarge’s expense, he said.
If the village were to litigate those fees, it would lose, and going to court would cost more than Cary would get in fines, Kownick said.
What the board decided to do instead of collecting the fines was to ask for more property, on top of the 190 acres Cary has already been given.
As part of the agreement, the village of Cary will get an additional six acres of land at the northenmost portion of Lot 4 of the Klasen Acres subdivision. Some of the property is in Cary and part of it is in Algonquin.
Rife said once the village closes on the property, it will be a landowner in Algonquin.
“What we want to do is work with the Village of Algonquin so that this property would be disconnected from Algonquin and it will be brought into the village of Cary,” he said.
The final vote to transfer the property was 5-1, with Trustee Kim Covelli casting the lone “no” vote.
Covelli said she was “extremely disappointed” with this process.
“I feel like we have two crummy options to choose from,” she said. “All of us on this board have tried and tried with this company to meet them somewhere in the middle. ... I feel like there was no middle with them at all, which was extremely disappointing.”
Covelli said the village kept giving Lafarge multiple different options, which the company rejected.
These “crummy options” were either to take Lafarge to court, or give the company what it wanted.
“I don’t want Cary to spend money foolishly,” Covelli said. “At the same time, I feel like Cary did not get what it deserved out of the finalization of this deal.”
Though they ultimately voted “yes,” Trustees Jeff Kraus and Jennifer Weinhammer also expressed disappointment in how negotiations went.
“Meyer was very difficult to work with. It took a long time to get to where we’re at,” Weinhammer said.