YORKVILLE — Cornerstone Pavers has found itself in trouble with the county, again.
The company operates a nonmetallic mining operation at the Beck pit in the Town of Waterford and was granted a conditional-use permit from the county in Oct. 2017 to mine gravel.
But now that permit is in the process of being revoked.
The Racine County Land Use and Planning Committee on Monday voted to initiate revocation proceedings for the permit and directed corporation counsel to place a cease-and-desist order on the property as soon as possible.
In March, Cornerstone was looking for a new place to house its temporary concrete batch plant that was then being housed on a lot on Highway K in Raymond, just west of Interstate 94.
After the Wisconsin Department of Transportation took legal action against Cornerstone Pavers to move its concrete batch plant in Raymond, the company was granted approval to put it in Mount Pleasant but Cornerstone was also looking at the option of putting the plant in Waterford.
Cornerstone applied through the village to place the concrete batch plant in Waterford at its mining facility, and Racine County officials went to that location to do a routine inspection on March 27.
“I wanted staff to be out there to report on conditions that they’re compliant with the conditions from October (2017) to report to the town before they go to public hearing,” Brian Jensen, development services superintendent for the county, told the committee.
Jensen said staff reported extractions beyond the boundary agreed upon in the conditional-use permit and stockpiles of materials located an estimated 100 feet beyond the property line.
According to Racine County Corporation Counsel Michael Lanzdorf, on March 28, Public Works Director Julie Anderson signed a letter captioned “Notice of Violation – Correction Orders.” It was subsequently provided to Cornerstone via certified mail, email and hand-delivery to Richard Beck (the property owner) via certified mail.
Jensen told the committee he and attorneys with the county along with Chris Cape, owner of Cornerstone, and his attorney inspected the area on April 5 and found that several sections of the mine had been filled in.
‘It’s pretty egregious’
County officials believe the work was done after the correction order was sent.
Supervisor Monte Osterman was upset with the report.
“Everything that our staff is telling us, I think that they’re under-exaggerating on this,” Osterman said. “I feel that it’s pretty egregious. It didn’t happen overnight; I think the operator knew what they were doing.”
Although he said he does not know the motivation behind additional work, Osterman said he believes initiating the revocation process is the right move.
“It’s obvious to me that the operator isn’t going to do anything to comply with what the plan originally was,” Osterman said. “They already tried to cover up what they did.”
The county has had issues with Cornerstone in the past, especially regarding construction on Highway MM which has been plagued with delays.
A visibly anxious Cape was at the meeting but was not allowed to speak, because the committee did not ask for public input.
Speaking to The Journal Times after the meeting, Cape read a statement saying:
“This is a gravel pit in a rural spot in the Town of Waterford; we’ve never had a single complaint from those persons in the area about excavation there. In one corner our excavator operator relied on a surveyor’s stake that was apparently mis-set, and he dug a bit too close. He did not cross the property line. We filled in that spot as would ordinarily be done in usual gravel pit operations.”
Cape also said Cornerstone stands ready to work with the county but said, “We disagree with what was presented about other parts of the pit. The facts will support us on those parts of the operation.”
Cape denied that Cornerstone filled in parts of the mine after the correction order was received.
“The moment we received the summons and learned of this, we ceased all operations and removed all of our earth-moving equipment,” Cape said. “We ceased all operations on March 29 at 12:30 p.m., immediately upon receiving the complaint, which was the first time we learned about this. ... We did no work after receiving the complaint.”
Jeff Leavell, attorney for Cornerstone, said the committee made an assumption based on the date printed on the notice of the violation instead of the date received by Cornerstone.
“They jumped to a lot of conclusions (Monday),” Leavell said.
Cape will have a chance to address the committee in public at a future meeting that has yet to be scheduled, as part of the revocation process.
“They jumped to a lot of conclusions (Monday).” Jeff Leavell, attorney for Cornerstone Pavers