It is heartening to see some progress is being made in the dispute between Groton Township and Hanson Aggregates Midwest, the company that owns Sandusky Crushed Stone Quarry.
A deal that seems to acceptable enough to both sides is on the table. The township trustees delayed voting on the agreement last week after public outcry. They may revisit the issue at their meeting this evening. Many Groton residents objected to the township taking the deal. They are upset for a number of reasons. They are convinced the agreement is a bad deal for the township.
"What part of 'No' don't you understand?" asked township resident Gary Stacy, referring to the township's vote on a referendum in 2005 to oppose rezoning for the quarry.
"Citizens, in the majority, said 'no.' The trustees must fight the lawsuit," he said.
So we know where at least the vocal majority of people in Groton stand on the settlement of the lawsuit.
But still, this is a tough situation that seems to have reached a mostly suitable place in the middle for both parties.
The quarry will drop the suit against the township in exchange for getting rezoning on 850 acres without the chance of another referendum. While we do feel overall this is a good deal, we object to the idea of citizens' avenue of referendum being taken away. This is something that should only be considered in rare cases, and doing it once does set a bad precedent.
However, in this case the township secures buffer land and a promise of payment from material produced at the quarry. This deal could generate as much as $240,000 a year for the township. We should not need to remind you that money is a precious commodity for local governments these days. This deal locks in another revenue stream for the township.
If the township does not settle, it could stand to lose big time. Attorneys say losing the suit could mean several hundred million dollars in damages paid to the quarry. The quarry contends it is not allowed to fully enjoy, or prosper from, its property, thus the lawsuit.
There is something the trustees should still work to include in the deal. Citizen and longtime critic Earl McKinney raises an important point of provisions for health concerns. The township should push for safeguards against air, water and soil pollution. While you have the company in a negotiating mode, get them to commit to better safety standards.
This agreement looks pretty good. It could use a little tweaking but we are in support of trustees approving it soon.