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Fri, Sept. 20

Despite outcry, city grants 60 more days of rock crushing
Neighbors opposed ongoing ‘gavel pit’ operations at Lakeview Plaza

Work continues at Lakeview Plaze at Willow Creek at Willow Lake roads. (Cindy Bark/Courier)

Work continues at Lakeview Plaze at Willow Creek at Willow Lake roads. (Cindy Bark/Courier)

In what was termed the final such permit, the Lakeview Plaza subdivision got the go-ahead from the Prescott City this past week for two more months of rock-crushing operations near the corner of Willow Creek and Willow Lake roads.

The July 25 decision did not come without plenty of debate, however. Several nearby neighbors argued that the shopping-center site had been operating in recent years as a “rock quarry.”

And two council members — Billie Orr and Jean Wilcox — voiced concerns about the neighborhood impacts and ultimately voted against the permit extension. In the end, the Prescott City Council voted 5-2 to grant a 60-day rock-crushing permit to the project.

When pressed by Mayor Harry Oberg for a guarantee that the permit would be the last, applicant Ken Mabarak said, “I can tell you, we’re not coming back to you. Please grant this extension. It’s the last one. We want (the area) to look like a shopping center, like it’s supposed to be.”

A city memo notes that the first of Lakeview’s requests for rock-crushing dates back to 2016. The project was then granted a 30-day extension in January 2017, and a 60-day extension in March 2017. A timeline from Mabarak states that the operation received a “notice to stop operations” from the city on July 11, 2017.

Mabarak outlined a series of issues with machinery, weather, and rock conditions that he said added to the timeframe for the rock crushing.

But several nearby residents urged the council against the latest extension, pointing out that the noise, dust, and odors from the operation had severely affected their quality of life.

“Over three years ago, our whole world turned upside-down,” property owner Debbie Hacke said, telling the council that the noise from the Lakeview project “made it unbearable for us to live there. Now it’s a never-ending rock quarry that has affected our family dramatically.”

The family ultimately moved to a different home in Chino Valley, Hacke said. “We ended up having to move, but we couldn’t sell our house, because who wants to buy a house across from that?” she said.

Mike Ryan, another area resident, added, “Effectively we’ve been living next to a gravel pit for over two years. I’m here to respectfully request that if the property owner wants to crush rock, that he does it elsewhere – at a more appropriate location.”

City staffers pointed out that the grading permit is still in effect, allowing Lakeview Plaza to excavate the lot and move the dirt and rocks. The rock-crushing is a separate action, and requires City Council approval.

Mabarak told that council that he also has been frustrated with the amount of time needed for the grading and rock-crushing, adding that the site had been a difficult one because of the amount of rock. “We’re tired of the duration,” he said. “We’re not happy with it either.”

Area contractor Tom Devereaux said transporting the uncrushed rock to another site where it could be crushed would be unrealistic for a number of reasons.

“A lot of this crushed material is being put back into the site so you can actually build on it,” Devereaux said, noting that “hauling it off and then hauling it back” would not be practical.”

He added: “For another thing, where would you take it? There’s just no place where you wouldn’t be causing traffic problems. It’s better to do what’s being done – do it here and use it in the city, where it benefits people. It’s an economical way to do it.”

But Orr stressed the ongoing impact to the neighborhood. “It may not be feasible in some ways, but I will tell you the people who live in that neighborhood feel like they’ve been living in a gravel pit,” she said. “There’s a time to say enough is enough.”

Subcontractors on the project told the council that machinery problems had been worked out in recent weeks, and the rock-crushing could be finished within the 60-day permit time.

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