Debbie Hickman
Special to The Gardner News
It was standing room only at the Edgerton City Council meeting on Sept. 11.
The size of the crowd suggested that the citizens had something on their minds, and that night, it was all about the proposed asphalt plant that would be located just outside Edgerton city limits.
Bettis Asphalt and Construction, Inc. made an application to Johnson County for a five-year, conditional use permit (CUP) for a proposed asphalt and concrete plant and auxiliary operations to be located in the existing quarry on Sunflower Road.
This request for application has been heard twice by the Southwest Consolidated Zoning Board and referred to the Board of County Commissioners both times for approval.  During the second review of this application by county commissioners on Aug. 28, Commissioner Jason Osterhaus moved to “Continue for one month for the applicant to reach out to residents in attendance and others who were unable to attend the meeting to address the issues of air pollution, smells and other related issues they may have as mentioned in their comments here today and to bring back a report to the Sept. 25, 2014 business session.”
Jim Hubbard, an attorney for Bettis Asphalt and Construction, Inc., has indicated to The Gardner News that a date and time for the meeting between his clients and the residents of Edgerton has not been finalized. Hubbard said his clients have no plans to pull their application and will continue to work diligently toward satisfying the concerns of Edgerton residents and doing what is asked of them to obtain the CUP.
Bill Braun, Edgerton resident, told the Edgerton council on Sept. 11 that he wanted his public comments to be viewed as a “pep talk.”
Braun said he believed the concessions council members recently made to the asphalt plant operators was what they thought had to be done. He said council members believed the asphalt plant was coming no matter what.
He asked that the city council “take a firm stand and voice their concerns.”
Although Jerry Owens, a former Edgerton City Council member, said he could understand the city thought they were looking out for the citizens when they made a deal with the asphalt plant owner, he was worried the city was “knuckling under to the county.”
Owens politely suggested to the city council that they “grow gonads” and “tell the county commissioners you do not want the asphalt plant.”
In closing comments, Owens turned to the public in attendance and stated, “If you leave here tonight and do not follow up with the county commissioners, do not blame our city council.”
Testimony consistently centered on the residents concerns for their personal health, the general welfare of their community and the impact to property values.  Residents have taken the stance that they, as one commenter said “need to band together to protect their community.”
Another resident told The Gardner News that what in the past could be labeled as concerns connected to the asphalt plant are now best described as fears.
“And when you are afraid you want to defend and protect what is yours.  That’s why we are all here tonight.”
Residents questioned why notices of county meetings were not published in The Gardner News.  One member of the public spoke out from his seat asking others in attendance, “How many of us read The Olathe News?”
The method of notification used by the county to announce meetings became an issue for Edgerton residents very early on. At the May 28 Southwest Consolidated Zoning Board meeting, Edgerton resident Kenny Pritchard questioned if notice of that meeting was placed in the paper.
Paul Greeley, county planning and development deputy director, explained,  “It was advertised in the Olathe newspaper.”
Even though Edgerton residents have been very steadfast in their opposition to the asphalt/concrete plant, the city has flip-flopped in regards to its official position.
After listening to the people of Edgerton and comments from each council member, Charlie Troutner, the newest member of the council, moved to direct city council and the mayor to rescind previous testimony, in which the city offered its support of the plant, and instead request denial of the conditional use permit application. Troutner suggested that the council request the denial based on criteria established by Kansas Supreme Court in 1978 for items such as intensity of use, impact to road network and impact to neighboring property owners.
A unanimous council approved the stance. Council member Frances Cross was absent from the meeting.
Johnson county interim director of communications and public affairs, Jody Hanson, confirms that the county is still working out the details of a date and time for a meeting between Bettis and the residents of Edgerton. Hanson says the application for CUP will appear on the Sept. 25th county commission meeting agenda, but the staff will recommend to continue the matter for another month.