SPRING PRAIRIE — A plan for a new gravel pit to supply construction sites in Walworth County has touched off a dust-up with neighbors who are worried about noise and disruption.
At the center is Asphalt Contractors Inc. a company that has performed road repairs and other asphalt work in Williams Bay, Fontana, Delavan and elsewhere.
Citing a growing shortage of construction materials, the company wants to open a gravel pit on a 260-acre site amid the farm fields in this rural area north of Lake Geneva.
It would not be the first gravel pit in the area, and company officials have assured neighbors that the operation along state Highway 120 would minimize disruption to the public.
But neighbors are fighting the proposal, saying they fear that underground excavation in the countryside would bring noise, debris, traffic and other disturbances.
“It’s going to drive me nuts,” neighbor Jeff Konz said.
Spring Prairie town officials must approve rezoning of the land for the gravel pit to go forward. And town officials are getting an earful from both critics and proponents of the project.
Town Chairman Don Henningfeld said his telephone has been ringing off the hook since the Asphalt Contractors proposal became public.
Henningfeld said there might be disagreement within the three-member town board, but he is inclined to support the gravel pit. Voicing skepticism that the disturbances would be as severe as some claim, he said another gravel pit operates across town and neighbors “don’t even know it’s there.”
Referring to the neighbors fighting Asphalt Contractors, he added, “People kind of exaggerate over everything.”
Opponents planned a June 22 gathering at Yuppie Hill Poultry Farm to discuss their strategy for trying to stop the gravel pit.
The rezoning request was scheduled June 27 for a vote by the town plan commission, which will forward a recommendation to the town board for consideration in July.
If the project gets the green light, Asphalt Contractors hopes to begin operation later this year.
To address community concerns, company officials held public meetings June 19 and 20 at Spring Prairie Town Hall to display their plans and answer questions about the development.
The Union Grove-based company would lease 260 acres of farmland from two families near Highway 120 and Highway 11. Moving through the site in phases over several years, the company expects to excavate 150,000 tons of gravel a year — about 44 truckloads a day — to be hauled to its asphalt plant in Burlington.
Company President Robert Kordus told a standing-room-only crowd June 20 that about 140 acres would be excavated, and that buffers and berms would cushion nearby residents from noise or dust.
Kordus said other steps are planned, too, to insulate surrounding property owners from any disturbance.
“What we’re doing is far more stringent than any other gravel pit around here,” he said. “We’re trying to be a good neighbor.”
Kordus is not related to a former Lake Geneva alderman of the same name.
Not everyone in Spring Prairie is opposing the project.
Neighbor Joe Wallace said he is satisfied that Asphalt Contractors has come up with a reasonable plan for the gravel pit. Wallace said he also recognizes that there is a need for the natural construction materials that is found underground.
“We need the gravel,” he said. “We need a lot of good roads.”
But another neighbor, Steve Mather, said he worries about the noise and disruption from excavation work that would be going on virtually next-door to him.
Mather also voiced irritation that he and other neighbors only just learned about the gravel pit proposal about a week earlier.
“They made it sound like there is no concern — everything’s cool,” he said.
Kordus said no more than about 19 acres would be under active excavation at any time during the multi-phased operation.
Acknowledging that the proposal has faced loud opposition, Kordus said he has done his best to address concerns and explain the plans.
Referring to neighbors, he said: “We’re not trying to pull anything. We’re giving them the true story.”