Environmental issues muddy topsoil proposal in Oakville

By BURKE WASSON

An Oakville man trying to sell topsoil to be cleared aside for a private lake on his property is at odds with nearby residents who oppose the move for environmental reasons.

Dane Eiler, who owns 29 acres between Green Road and the Meramec River, has proposed to sell topsoil to be unearthed from his proposed 4.7-acre lake.

But due to various factors like the noise of trucks carrying the topsoil out of the area and potential dirt and mud that could pour through the area, residents of the Crystal Lake subdivision are opposed.

Both sides pleaded their case Aug. 20 to the county Planning Commission, which determined it likely needs more time to study the proposal.

At the end of the Aug. 20 Planning Commission meeting, 10 people in the audience raised their hands in favor of allowing Eiler to sell the topsoil from his property and 96 attendants showed opposition.

Eiler is requesting a conditional-use permit on his land, which is zoned as a flood-plain non-urban district, to be able to sell topsoil left over from digging the four-foot-deep lake.

His attorney, Eric Schmidt of the Lathrop & Gage law firm, told the Planning Com-mission that the primary operating hours for hauling topsoil out of the area would be from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday through Friday.

Schmidt added there would be predominantly one truck servicing the collection of topsoil from the site and it would have 10 to 15 visits per week.

Eiler plans to sell an estimated 25,000 cubic yards of topsoil. Schmidt estimated each load of topsoil would be worth $165.

With his estimate of piling 10 cubic yards per truck and assuming that the topsoil would be carried out five days per week, it would take 50 weeks — or roughly a year — to complete the job.

But because Green Road, which could be used as a path for trucks to haul the topsoil out of the area, borders the Crystal Lake subdivision, Planning Commission Vice Chairman Maureen Ramshaw said she is worried about the effect it would have on those neighbors.

“Green Road comes up to the neighbors’ property,” she said. “Part of Green Road is common ground for the Crystal Lake subdivision. That being the case, I want to know how that works with that many trucks.”

Director of Planning Glenn Powers said while the Planning Commission is not disputing Eiler’s right to dig a private lake on his property, the issue strictly is whether he should be allowed a conditional-use permit to sell the topsoil.

“I think anybody with a piece of property can (dig a private lake),” Powers said. “The difference in this case is he wants to sell off the dirt. Normally, if he took his pond and spread dirt, he could do that now. It’s really the issue of the dirt.”

Planning Commission Chairman Doug Morgan said he needs more information from Eiler before he is comfortable making a decision. Specifically, Morgan wants more definitive answers on how long the removal of topsoil will take, how tall the piles of topsoil would be and how significant the smell of those piles would be on the surrounding community.

“If he were spreading this out on his own property, we wouldn’t be here tonight,” Morgan said. “The farther you stay away from the subdivision and interfere with their lives, the better.”

And because Telegraph Road also could be potentially used to haul the topsoil to its destination, Morgan said he is concerned that 10 trucks per day might create hazardous driving conditions on a busy road covered with dirt and mud.

“You’ve got these trucks going in and out and these trucks will be loaded with mud,” Morgan said. “Are your proposing to clean this every day to make sure this doesn’t happen? Mud causes a dangerous situation.”

Additionally, Morgan told Eiler and residents in attendance that both sides need to come to a greater appreciation of each other to truly resolve the issue.

While Eiler said he went door to door in the Crystal Lake subdivision to explain the process to his neighbors, some of those neighbors deny this and alleged to the Planning Commission that Eiler creates noise on his property.

Despite their differences, Morgan reiterated his desire to see both Eiler and his neighbors come to terms.

“People need to be trying to work together,” Morgan said. “It seems to be the McCoys and the Hatfields … I think his (Eiler’s) purpose is good. He just has to decide does he need to commercially sell the dirt?”