Pointing fingers

Eureka residents and Winter Brothers sound off mine

Williams+Rd+is+the+road+that+would+be+accessed+by+more+than+40+sand+and+gravel+dump+trucks+each+day.

Emily Grossnicklaus

Williams Rd is the road that would be accessed by more than 40 sand and gravel dump trucks each day.

Emily Grossnicklaus, News writer

Learning to drive is challenging in its own right. Local politics have been debating over a business proposal that could have made driving the Augustine Heights neighborhood even more challenging and could have started a new chapter in Eureka’s story.

Tensions were running high. Annoyed Eureka residents packed the room eager to hear petitions. Heated rebuttals flew from the Eureka residents as they quarreled with the Winter Brothers Material Company regarding their proposed sand and gravel mine.

The proposal

Winter Brothers Material Company has proposed the rezoning and extraction of sand and gravel in Eureka on Williams and Augustine Rd., near Route 66 State Park.

Members of the Winter Brothers Material Company attended three Town Hall meetings: Oct. 15., Oct. 29. and Nov. 12.

They heard the concerns of several Eureka residents regarding the proposed mine and proceeded to give their own side.

Petition A calls for Winter Brothers Material Company for rezoning of approximately 247 acres of R1 Residential to Floodplain located at Williams and Augustine Roads on the western bank of the Meramec River.

This means that Winter Brothers is asking for the rights to the land where they plan to build the mine.

When dealing with zoning, the purpose of the zoning, as set up by State statute, is to promote the health, safety, moral and general welfare of the community, Ms. Kathy Butler, Eureka city attorney, said.  That is 89.020 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri.

If it is rezoned, it allows Winter Brothers access to a sand and gravel deposit. It has a retail value over the 40-year life of this project will be $500 million, according to Mr. Greg Hoffman, Winter Brothers representative attorney.

Rezoning

Residents of Eureka feel there are good and bad aspects to rezoning this land for a sand and gravel mine.

Sand and gravel production is the highest and best use of this site, according to Mr. Stephen Collins, Eureka resident. While it was zoned for single-family homes and Eureka annexed this site in 1970, residential zoning is not economically feasible and is inconsistent with Eureka’s comprehensive plan.

According to Mr. Mark Schmiedeskamp, Planning and Zoning Commissioner, the floods of ’82, ’93, ’96 and 2008, obviously make the land a floodplain; the problem, then, is not that residents want to use the land for something else. They just do not necessarily want to use this land for a mine.

Petition B from Winter Brothers Material Company calls for a special use permit for the extraction of raw materials from the earth processing thereof located at Williams Road and Augustine Road on the western bank of the Meramec River. 

In simpler terms, Winter Brothers is asking for the right to take and use sand and gravel from this land.

This site contains an alluvial deposit of 30 to 40 million tons of commercially valuable sand and gravel, according to Mr. Hoffman.

“There is a limited supply of sand and gravel in the St. Louis region,” Mr. Collins said. “The site contains the largest and most accessible deposit of sand and gravel in our growing area of southwest St. Louis County.”

With hundreds of millions of dollars at stake, Winter Brothers  proposal is carefully written with bias, according to Mr. William Valli, Eureka resident.

Property values

Although the demand for gravel may increase, residents worry their property values will decrease.

Mr. Ernie Damelin, real estate appraiser, ran a paired sales analysis on properties near the mine. His paired sales analysis compared home values of identical homes that residents thought would be affected by the mine.

“The sales of a property near the operation, compared to the sales  of a close substitute almost identical to the property away from the sand and gravel operation is no material difference in sales price,” Mr. Damelin said. “Same time, same economic conditions, same physical property sell for about the same value. If you’re near the nuisance or away from the proposed nuisance there is no difference in sale price.”

Citizens feel this is inaccurate because Devlin did not compare property before Winter Brother’s proposed a mine at this location in 1999 and 2003. Damelin only compared similar homes after Winter Brothers started operating at this plant.

According to, Mrs. Laine Jeep, representative of Save Our Homes Eureka, the George Erickcek’s study, done by Mrs. Diane Hite, Professor at Alburn University, found that if you live within a half mile of a mine pit, your property value is reduced by 20 percent; one mile 14.5 percent; two miles 8.9 percent; and three miles 4.9 percent. The loss in house value is quantified in dollars because of the deterioration of the quality.

Property values are not the only issue.

Road safety

Safety concerns are also being taken into account.

Large trucks driving on both Williams Road and I-44 still concerns residents.

Big trucks making sharp turns could cause unsafe driving conditions for everyday drivers.

“We have never had a problem where a truck has gone where it wasn’t suppose to go because the local communities enforce weight limits and because we wouldn’t tolerate it,”  Mr. Tom Winter, Winter Brothers President, said at the Nov. 12 meeting.

The weight of the trucks that will go to and from the mine exceed the weight limits permitted on Williams Road.

“There is a 9-ton weight limit on Williams Road. Any truck that would try to access the site by way of 109 to the residential area, would have to drive on Williams Road,” Hoffman said. “That 9-ton weight limit makes it illegal for any truck to utilize Williams Road because an empty dump truck weighs more than 9 tons.”

The Winter Brother’s proposal states that trucks will use I-44 to travel to and from the site.

Although Winter Brothers claims this will be safer, residents feel the trucks access to I-44 will heavily impact traffic in and out of Eureka. Big construction trucks have already crowded their roads.

“Based on existing average daily traffic on I-44, which is 68,000 cars per day, as well as the number of trucks per day on I-44,” Mr. Lee Cannon, traffic engineer, said. “The proposed facility would add approximately one-half of a percent to the overall traffic volume on I-44, and a little over 2 percent to the truck haulings on I-44, which are currently 8,000 trucks per day.” 

This adds up to approximately 20 trucks per hour from 6 a.m.-10 p.m., six days a week.

Noise

The noise trucks and equipment bring to this mining process also concerns Eureka members.

The St. Louis County noise ordinance established its limits of residential properties at 55 decibels during the day and 50 at night, according to Mr. Hoffman.

“We measured the measurements of I-44 near  the subject property and made calculations providing all those measurements,” Mr. Hoffman said at the Nov. 12 meeting. “We determined that the noise level to the closest residential property lines and our property would be 43 decibels.”

According to Mr. Jeffery Fillers, Eureka resident, who has a Master’s degree in audio/video and audience forensics and is a licensed investigator for the state of Missouri, 55 decibels is moderate rainfall, 100 dbs is like standing right next to a hand drill all day long. His calculations indicated that the trucks would produce 110 dbs.

It is going to be like standing beside a jet airplane.

Mr. Fillers went to Winter Brothers’ Fenton plant and measured the decibel levels of different trucks and equipment at that specific plant.

“They have some Caterpillar equipment there, which is what moves the equipment to the trucks,” Mr. Fillers said at the Nov. 12 meeting. “I actually called Caterpillar up in Mount Juliet. I asked them what the db level was in ISO standard. The ISO standard says sound db’s of the Caterpillar was 111 db’s.”

The equipment alone exceeds Eureka’s noise limit.

“I know on semi-trucks and Caterpillar equipment there are backup beepers,” Mr. Fillers said. “The backup beepers run anywhere from 97 to 112 db’s. That is double of the 55 db’s that we have been told.”

The decision

The concerns of everyone involved are factored into the decision to rezone.

The Planning & Zoning Commission voted 7-2 to oppose the rezoning of the land, and 9-0 to deny the special use permit for the extraction of sand and gravel, Nov. 12.

Dr. Stephen Sanders, representative of Save Our Homes Eureka, sent an email regarding the mine, Jan. 13.

Winter Brothers has withdrawn the proposal  altogether rather than going through formal denial by the Board of Aldermen. Options now include resubmitting in the future to Eureka, or applying to St. Louis County directly.

According to Dr. Sanders, this is the end of the story… for now.