PORTAGE TOWNSHIP - For the owners of property next to Valley View Quarry, it's unknown if the tentative agreement between quarry owners and the Portage Township Board of Trustees for the quarry operation will be good for them because they have have no idea of its details.
In February 2011, the township and nearby property owners Victor and Emily Betterly and Kevin Grzelak filed lawsuits claiming the quarry on Green Acres Road was operating illegally because it was in an area zoned rural residential. That suit was decided in favor of the plaintiffs in April 2011. Gogebic Circuit Court Judge Roy Gotham, who presided over the lawsuit, ordered the quarry to cease operations and for the owners of the quarry to begin the process to seek a special use permit.
Quarry owners, Thomas J. Moyle Jr. Inc., did submit an application for a special use permit, but before that process went forward, the attorneys for the township and the quarry decided to work on a consent agreement, which has tentatively been agreed upon.
Grzelak said he and the Betterlys were not part of the negotiations for a consent agreement, and there have been no public meetings about the details.
"We don't know what's in the final agreement," he said. "We hope the township negotiated some common sense rules."
For an article in Saturday's edition of The Daily Mining Gazette, Portage Township Supervisor Bruce Petersen said after attorneys for both sides make some final changes to the tentative agreement, it will come to the township board for approval, then it must be sent to Gotham for his approval. It could be weeks before everything is finalized.
Petersen said the tentative agreement has restrictions for such things as hours of operation, and noise and dust abatement.
For several years, Grzelak said he and the Betterlys - both of their properties abut the quarry - asked former township supervisor Bill Bingham and the quarry owners to make some changes to its operation to lessen noise and dust without success.
"That's all we wanted from the beginning," he said.
One of the requirements of the tentative agreement is that a berm be constructed to reduce the transmission of noise to the Betterlys' and Grzelak's property, but Grzelak said he has no idea if that will work.
"That depends on how they make the berm," he said. "(The noise) is incredible."
Vic Betterly said he's disappointed the negotiations for the consent agreement were done without input from the residents of the township.
"We were told about a public meeting, but we didn't get one," he said.
Although his main concern is that the quarry is in an area zoned rural residential, Vic Betterly said he hopes the tentative agreement will alleviate some problems he sees with its operation.
"All we've asked is for them to be good neighbors," he said.
Emily Betterly said although their attorney for the suit against Moyle, Steven Pence of Marquette, repeatedly asked to be part of the negotiations concerning the quarry between the township and Moyle, they weren't allowed.
"It wasn't for lack of asking," she said.
A recently passed Michigan law, PA 113, which came from separate bills created by State Rep. Matt Huuki, R-Atlantic Mine, and State Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, allows mining almost anywhere in Michigan as long as there are no "serious consequences" in doing so, and Grzelak said he hopes the tentative agreement for operation of the quarry includes consideration of no serious consequences.
Pence said although he doesn't yet know the details of the tentative agreement for the quarry operation, he wishes it had been negotiated more openly.
"The world likes settlement, but I prefer transparency," he said. "The new legislation (PA 113), in my opinion, required a hearing to decide if there were serious consequences."
In March, Pence said he filed a motion asking Gotham to rule a consent agreement on the quarry couldn't go forward without public hearings, but the judge said that motion was premature.
Although the plaintiffs won the original suit against Moyle, Pence said Gotham deferred on the part of the suit asking for damages for the Betterlys and Grzelak, and that is currently in the Michigan Court of Appeals in Lansing.
He's not certain when the damages part of the suit will be heard, Pence said.
Pence said the term "no serious consequences" in PA 113 has yet to be clearly defined legally, and until it is mining will continue in Michigan.
"I think there's historical precedents when the price of minerals are high enough, these minerals will be mined," he said.
Whether he takes any further action in the case depends on what his clients want to do, Pence said.
Emily Betterly said through the whole situation with the quarry, she and Vic received support from both neighbors and strangers.
"We were just very appreciative of everyone," she said. "There was overwhelming moral support."
Vic Betterly said he hopes the tentative agreement regarding the quarry will alleviate his concerns about it.
"I'm ready to move on," he said.