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      Negaunee Township: No to gravel pit

      The Negaunee Township Planning Commission held a public hearing Monday night to address Kona Ridge Mining Company's permit application to extract and crush gravel from their land off County Road 510. The outcome? It looks like it's back to the drawing board for Kona Ridge.

      Concerned neighbors showed up to the meeting with lots of questions about the company's intentions. They were relieved after the planning board turned down its permit application.

      "We're very pleased this evening," said concerned neighbor Lee Ossenheimer. "I think the township listened to the bulk of the individuals, all the residents in the area, and followed through on the suggestions we had and our concerns."

      While Kona Ridge says they had planned to use the gravel extracted from the site to develop condos and an access road, neighbors believe there's an ulterior motive.

      "I would love a residence built here, but I feel that there's too many unanswered questions," said Lori Jokinen, who lives next to the site. "If they had come out and stated exactly what they wanted, but we're concerned. I'm very, very nervous as a neighbor that I will have an existing gravel pit that will be running trucks out of here, hauling gravel to many places, selling gravel."

      However, neighbors say the noise and dust from a nearby gravel pit would be worth it if it were to be used to develop local condos. But the vagueness of Kona Ridge's site plan had them speaking out tonight.

      "When you start on a project that has permission for two years that isn't going to take that long, you've opened Pandora's box," said Negaunee Township resident, Mike McDonnell. "What's coming next?"

      But Kona Ridge says community members are mistaken and have nothing to fear.

      "It's a little frustrating just because we're a bigger name; they think just because we're a bigger name that we have an ulterior motive," said Kona Ridge Manager of Development and Production, Jeremy Nelson. "We're really just trying here to bring some more tax money to Negaunee Township and use the land that we have that we weren't able to use and make some profit off of it, hopefully."

      Although they were denied a permit to crush gravel and develop an access road, Kona Ridge said that they will make changes to their site plan based on comments, get an engineer to sign off on it, and resubmit a permit application in the near future.

      As for neighbors of the site off of 510, they say they remain wary of anything that Kona Ridge proposes, and although they won Monday night's battle, they haven't won the war just yet.

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