Section 17.2.13 of the Lincoln County Code states the intent of a Rural Lands 4 (RL4) zoning district: “This district is intended to preserve rural character and promote continued low-intensity and open space uses in areas of the county not envisioned for intensive agricultureal or commercial forestry use. Appropriate uses include continued low-intensity farming and forestry where viable, single family residences up to a density not exceeding four dwelling units per 40 acres owned, and associated home occupations and other limited compatible business opportunities.”
If RL4 was the final word there would not be the conflict the residents of the Town of Skanawan, which is about 85 percent zoned RL4, face today. Lincoln County though, through approval by its Land Services Committee (LSC) of a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) application, can ignore RL4 zoning and allow uses contrary to its intent.
Two CUPs have been applied for to mine sand and gravel off of County Rd. S. This would involve mining on roughly 120 acres of property adjacent to existing residential properties. There is a lot of sand and gravel in Skanawan and there is a lot of money to be made by a few if it is mined.
Sand and gravel mines would bring with them significant noise and dust, devalued property, accelerated wear and tear on local roads, potential heavy water usage with likely adverse well impacts, and safety risks from dump truck traffic. For all the obvious negatives there is no evidence of any benefit to either the town or the county by approving these CUPs.
A mining operation on the scale proposed would have unintended consequences that would be borne not by the two corporations or local land speculators who want to mine in Skanawan, but by the families who reside next to or near these mines, and nearby property owners. What detrimental unintended consequences are lurking, only to be found out after damage would have been done? “Whoops, sorry folks” wouldn’t be much consolation to those whose quality of life would have been irreversibly harmed.
No person should be put in the sitution where they see the quality of their life regarded as expendible, as easily sacrificed, exchanged, or placed at risk for a corporate goal.
If RL4 is to be meaningful, if it is to retain the integrity for which it was established, approval of any CUP to allow uses incompatible with its intent must be a rare and extraordinary action, and a last possible option.
If LSC were to approve these CUP applications it would open a Pandora’s box that could not be closed.
Let’s hope it does not.