Croell makes another bid for development of limestone operations off HWY 16
PENNINGTON COUNTY, S.D. – On January 16, the Pennington County Commission will vote on something it rejected in 2016… whether to allow Croell Redi-Mix to develop its limestone operations at the old Perli pit off Highway 16. But just like they did the last time — critics are adamantly voicing their opposition — and will have their say at a public hearing next week.
At issue is a rather inconspicuous turnoff between Reptile Gardens and Bear Country. It’s the entrance and exit for trucks hauling gravel to and from and quarry, and it’s triggered controversy and safety concerns among residents, business owners, and the tourist industry.
“Well it’s not expansion,” says Spearfish attorney Tom Brady, who is representing Croell, as he did in 2016. “It’s been a limestone quarry for 60 years. It is and was and will continue to be a quarry during the life of the resource.”
Julie Jensen, the president and C.E.O of Visit Rapid City, is upset the Croell proposal is before the county commission again. Jensen says, “Agriculture’s number one, tourism is number two in the state of South Dakota. Both of those industries will be impacted by this. It’s just beyond belief to me that it’s even being considered, that it’s even being debated.”
And that’s where this Highway 16 turnoff comes into play. Opponents contend that if Croell receives permission to develop its operations, significantly more large trucks hauling gravel will be coming on to the road at a section of Highway 16 where there’s a curve. Many of those trucks would be crossing four lanes of traffic to head toward Rapid City, at a spot where vehicles and motorcycles are coming off a steep downhill – and may not know trucks will be crossing in their lanes.
“Before Croell purchased the property, the amount of rock coming out of there was basically minuscule,” says Duane Abata with the group Black Hills Concerned Citizens. He continued with, “When Croell purchased the property and began their operations, and they don’t even have a rock crusher in there yet, the tonnage went up fifty times. What really bothers us is the truck traffic. If you do simple arithmetic, there’s going to be a truck going up and down those hills every two minutes, which will basically take over a lane of traffic.“
Abata shared a video with NewsCenter1 of a truck coming onto highway 16 from the Croell turnoff. The truck can be seen crossing all lanes and turning left toward Rapid City. It’s not known if the truck belongs to Croell. Regardless, as it turns a thick cloud of dirt from the truck envelopes the area, affecting visibility for vehicles coming off the downslope, at a curve – and sometimes at a higher than usual rate of speed because of the hill.
In part of two our special report on NewsCenter1 on Friday, we’ll have the reaction to the video from Croell attorney Tom Brady, and hear more concerns from the opponents.
The public hearing on the quarry proposal will be held Tuesday, January 8 at 3 p.m. in the Pennington County Commission chambers. The Commission is scheduled to take a vote the following week, on Wednesday the 16th.