Members of the Noblesville Plan Commission members received mixed feedback from the public, from company officials from Beaver Materials and from Hamilton County officials during a May 16 public hearing concerning the proposed a Beaver Materials gravel extraction site northwest of Allisonville Road and 191st Street in northern Noblesville.
At the end of a meeting that lasted several hours, the plan commission voted 7-3 to forward the proposal to the Noblesville Common Council with an unfavorable recommendation, meaning the majority of the plan commission did not support the proposal. The council will vote to approve or deny the proposal in June.
If approved, the project would eventually expand the Potter’s Bridge Park by approximately 50 acres. Ten acres would be donated to the park immediately after approval. When Beaver Materials finishes a five-year process of extracting sand and gravel, the additional 40 acres would be donated to the park. A little more than 8 acres of the site would be used for a residential development. The timeline begins when extraction begins, which could take up to 18 months after approval because Beaver Materials would need to acquire permits from the state. After the extraction process or after the five-year period, the remaining land would be donated to Hamilton County Parks Dept. to develop as park land. Thirty acres would become a lake for kayaking, canoeing and fishing. Land also would be added to Potter’s Bridge Park’s trail system.
Hamilton County Parks Director Chris Stice said the phased park development would likely cost between $1.2 million and $1.6 million, but the Hamilton County Council hasn’t approved funding for the park addition. The county council did submit a letter of support for the project.
The proposal previously appeared before the plan commission in November 2020, but it was withdrawn after the plan commission didn’t send a recommendation to the council after a 5-5 vote, resulting in neither a favorable or unfavorable recommendation. At that time, Indiana American Water opposed the project, citing concerns of water contamination during extraction. However, when Beaver Materials reintroduced the proposal this year, it included a water study completed by INTERA, an environmental and water resource consulting firm. The study found any potential contamination to the White River would be “low risk.” The inclusion of the water study and well construction led to a revised letter of neutrality from Indiana American Water.
If approved, Beaver Materials would be responsible for installing two or more wells upstream of wells already in place that provide water from the White River for residential use. The new wells would be designed to catch contaminants soon enough for remediation before contaminated water reached wells for residential use.
“That (study) is a significant report for you guys to have and you didn’t have it last time,” Attorney Eric Douthit told the commission. Douthit represents Beaver Materials.
Douthit said Beaver Materials would pay for the two wells recommended by INTERA and any other wells that might be needed throughout the duration of the project.
“This is going to be five years (of extraction) compared to forever, and the park is going to be forever, the residential (development) is going to be forever,” Douthit said.
Don’t Leave it to Beaver commissioned Mundell & Associates, an Indianapolis-based environmental consulting firm, to assess the INTERA report from the Beaver Materials water study. The Mundell report stated that although Mundell doesn’t take issue with the INTERA report’s hydrogeologic assessment or groundwater modeling elements, it stated it believed the potential risk to the drinking water aquifer and nearby wellfields has not been fully assessed and therefore may not be known.
If approved, gravel and sand extraction activity would be from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Many nearby residents are concerned about dump truck traffic for 10 hours daily, as well as noise and dust from the extraction site. The materials would be transported to Beaver Materials’ facility on River Road for processing. Although much of the activity is “wet extraction,” as it occurs below water level, Beaver Materials would still be responsible for dust mitigation.
Residents packed the council chambers for the meeting to speak against the development. Their chief concerns were water quality, construction traffic, noise and impact to wildlife.
Despite the water study commissioned by Beaver Materials, many residents are concerned that “low risk” is still a risk.
Ann Murphy, a Noblesville resident who lives near the proposed development, voiced her opposition.
“My main concern is the water supply for Hamilton County and for those of us who live nearby,” she said. “Everyone in the county needs to be aware when it comes down to water supply. I have concern based on the water study, which said, depending on how things are done, at minimum there’s a low risk. If we’re that concerned about our water, any risk is too much.”
Murphy opposed the original proposal but didn’t speak at public meetings. This time, she did. She said when the proposal was withdrawn, it felt like a weight off her shoulders. She said she was disappointed when she learned Beaver Materials refiled the petition this year.
Residents and members of the Don’t Leave it to Beaver, a grassroots organization formed to oppose against the development, protested the proposal prior to the meeting. Many residents who opposed it the first time but didn’t speak publicly did so this time and protested with signs.
Next steps: Noblesville Common Council
Although the Noblesville Plan Commission sent the Beaver Materials’ gravel extraction site proposal to the Noblesville Common Council with an unfavorable recommendation, the Noblesville Common Council could still approve the proposal.
A press release from the Don’t Leave it to Beaver organization was published on the group’s Facebook page after the Noblesville Plan Commission vote May 16. It urged residents to continue to take action by writing city council members prior to the June 14 meeting where the proposal will be introduced to the council. It also encouraged residents to sign a petition available at dontleaveittobeaver.com/take-action.
The Noblesville Common Council is scheduled to vote on the proposal at its June 28 meeting.