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Residents oppose proposed gravel pit in Anchorage suburb

July 5, 2021 GMT

MEADOW LAKES, Alaska (AP) — Numerous residents of an Anchorage suburb want officials to deny a permit for a proposed gravel pit, arguing the mine doesn’t belong in a residential area and raising concerns about road safety and decimated property values.

Quality Asphalt Paving and parent company Colaska Inc., part of the international Colas Group, have proposed the gravel pit for 160 forested acres (65 hectares) in Meadow Lakes, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Anchorage.

Notices went out to more than 270 landowners within a half-mile (0.8 kilometers) of the site in mid-May, the Anchorage Daily News reported. The site is bounded by residential properties on three sides and a mix of commercial and residential on the fourth.

The Matanuska-Susitna Borough Planning Commission will conduct a public hearing on Colaska’s application for a conditional use permit on July 19.

There are already more than 100 active permitted pits across the borough. Matanuska-Susitna generally has few, if any, zoning laws that prohibit industrial operations like gravel pits in neighborhoods.

At most, there could be 500 trucks making 1,000 daily trips to and from the pit, though the application indicates that’s not an average or constant number. Some residents say Sylvan Road, already crumbling in places, can’t handle up to 1,000 truck trips a day.

As planned, the pit driveway would be half a mile (0.8 kilometers) from the busy intersection with the Parks Highway as well as a strip mall that includes a charter school, leading to worries about safety and congestion.

Resident Roger Oliver was on the verge of selling his home when the proposal surfaced in May. The deal fell through.

“I have it in writing. They backed out because of the proposed gravel pit,” he said. “You just don’t go in and put it in a neighborhood like that.”

The property is owned by the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority, a state corporation that’s required to use its roughly 1 million acres (405,000 hectares) of land holdings to generate money for “beneficiaries” — Alaskans experiencing a development disability, mental illness, substance use disorder, traumatic brain injury or Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia.

Gravel mining on Sylvan Road over 20 years could generate nearly $1.6 million for the trust, according to Wyn Menefee, director of the trust’s land office.