Permit denied for large Mat-Su gravel pit in middle of neighborhood off Parks Highway


PALMER – Matt-Su officials this week denied permits for a large gravel pit proposed in the middle of a quiet Meadow Lakes neighborhood near Parks Highway.

The decision Monday night sets up a potential conflict with the estate’s owner Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority, which operates under a mandate to raise revenue to fund mental-health programs for beneficiaries across the state.

Quality Asphalt Paving – a subsidiary of Kolaska Inc., part of the international Kolas Group – pledged for a proposed pit in the unincorporated community west of Wasilla. This generated vocal opposition from the residents of the area as well as the local community council.

The company expects to mine 2 million cubic yards of gravel over 20 years. The conditional-use permit application described 1,000 truck trips each day on the narrow, two-lane Sylvan Road. Peak traffic levels can include up to 100 trucks an hour, a level engineers say typically borough roads cannot accommodate.

Residents raised concerns about safety, noise and dwindling property values. The pit will be within a half-mile radius of more than 270 property owners.

Of the 35 people who testified Monday night before the Matanuska-Susitna Borough Planning Commission, only one — a trust representative — supported the pit, according to planning clerk Karol Riese.

Quality Asphalt told the commission that they operate gravel pits across the state, in several subdivisions, including Anchorage. On Sylvan Road, the company promised to build earthen berms to block noise and limit loud rock crushing and screening operations to daylight hours.

The Q has other merits to the gravel mine — residents pointed to an existing pothole across Park Highway — but it pushes the same issues elsewhere, senior production engineer Patrick Cummins told the commission ahead of the vote.

“It’s just going to be the next subdivision, the next neighbor,” Cummins said. “They’re just asking us to impress other people, not their backyards.”

The commission unanimously voted to deny the permit, saying the company’s application conflicts with the land-use code and the 2005 plan to guide future development in the area. Borough planners had recommended against the permit.

Trust officials say the refusal could put boroughs in trouble with their fiduciary obligation to generate revenue.

The state corporation is required to use its approximately 1 million acres of land holdings to generate money for “beneficiaries”: Alaskans with a developmental disability, mental illness, substance abuse disorder, traumatic brain injury or Alzheimer’s disease or related Experiencing dementia.

Officials said one estimate indicated that gravel mining on Sylvan Road could generate about $1.6 million for the trust over 20 years.

The trust often works “very productively with local governments,” spokeswoman Alison Bystock wrote in an email Tuesday. “(h) However, over the years there have been several instances where boroughs have tried to exercise rights over trust land. Usually, such matters are settled as a matter of law.”

The trust is considering a petition, which should be filed in the next 21 days, according to Bystok.

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