Opponents of a proposed gravel pit in Noblesville are mobilizing with protests and research. They’ve already got a catchy new slogan.

Indianapolis Star

A hearing on a proposed gravel pit in Noblesville has been postponed until next month but opponents of the project are just starting to dig in. 

About50 demonstrators gathered outside City Hall Monday night to voice their concerns about the 40-acre pit next to Potter’s Bridge Park. They said it would increase truck traffic, noise and pollution for 10 years while the gavel was being removed by Beaver Materials, of Noblesville.

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Outside of city hall, residents protest the plans to build a gravel pit next to Potter’s Bridge Park in Noblesville, Ind. on Monday, October 19, 2020. (Photo: Colin Boyle/IndyStar)

Their slogan: “Don’t leave it to Beaver,” a play on the 1950s era sitcom “Leave It to Beaver.”

“We are concerned for the health and safety of the hundreds of families that visit the park,” said Rachel Rayner, one of the protestors. “If this is approved, no neighborhood would be protected for next door industrial operations.”

Beaver Materials owner Chris Beaver and the Hamilton County Parks and Recreation Department want the pit built so they can fill it with water to make a lake a decade from now.

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Beaver has an agreement to buy the farmland and will donate it to the parks department if he can dig the pit. About 10-acres of the land would be used immediately by the parks department to add trails and other amenities to Potter’s Bridge Park, a 75-acre county park at 195th Street and Allisonville Road that features a historic covered bridge.

Beaver said the disturbances would be minor and far removed from nearby subdivisions. The parks department asserts the improvement to the park and the new lake for fishing and boating outweigh the inconveniences.

‘There are emotions on both sides’

The public hearing before the Plan Commission was to consider the necessary zoning changes from agricultural to an industrial-type use. Beaver requested a delay to fine tune the zoning request, not to scale it down or change the proposal because of the opposition, said Beaver’s attorney Eric Douthit.

“There is no pan to modify the use,” Douthit said.

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Rachael Raymer, organizer, holds a sign outside of city hall as residents protest the plans to build a gravel pit next to Potter’s Bridge Park in Noblesville, Ind. on Monday, October 19, 2020. (Photo: Colin Boyle/IndyStar)

Denise Aschleman, a Noblesville senior planner, confirmed the plan for the gravel pit is the same and Beaver was only seeking a “procedural” change in the zoning request.

Aschleman said the public will continue be able to submit comments and documents to the commission in advance of the rescheduled meeting Nov. 16 and she has already received about 150 from both those who oppose and favor the plan.

The submissions will be included in the information packet the commission uses to reach a decision.

Mayor Chris Jensen, council members and other lawmakers have said they are staying neutral on the plan until they review all the evidence. Still, Jensen dropped by the protest and engaged with the demonstrators — though he said it didn’t mean he was leaning one way or another.

“I always love when residents’ voices can be heard and they participate in democracy and I respect that,” Jensen told IndyStar. “I love to hear from citizens on all sides. I know there are emotions on both sides. We want to hear all the facts.”

Beaver said the gravel pit would not require blasting rocks but rather the gravel will be dug out with a single excavator. About 30 dump trucks a day would be loaded with the material, which would be driven to a processing plant on River Road, five miles away in Noblesville.

The noise of the excavation would be equivalent to road noise from Allisonville Road for residents, Beaver said. Workers would build berms to keep the sound from traveling, the trucks — covered with tarp — would have weight limits and be driven at low speeds.

Beaver said he didn’t expect to change the minds of most of the opponents but “I’d like to sit down and only talk facts.” He said hoped the hearing would provide that opportunity.

“I’d like to see this park (expansion) happen,” said Beaver, a life-long Noblesville resident. “I’d like to build a legacy that can be enjoyed and used for centuries by the residents of Noblesville and I think I can work with neighbors side-by-side on this.”

‘Show the plan commission how passionate we are’

Four subdivisions with about 640 homes are on the opposite side of Allisonville Road and residents say they frequently use the park and value its solitude.

Potters Wood subdivision resident Traci Preble said the homeowners have been having regular Sunday meetings to discuss strategy and different teams are organizing by subject matter.  

Rayner said the remonstrators are pouring through academic studies on engineering, geology, mining, sound and pollution to determine if the pit will be harmful.

The protestors have gathered a petition with 3,000 names they submitted to the Plan Commission, Raynor said, and she is building a website that is close to being activated.

Though the gravel pit hearing was removed from the agenda Monday, the protestors decided to proceed with their demonstration.

“We wanted to show the plan commission,” Raynor said, “how passionate we are about this.”

The Plan Commission will advance the proposal with a recommendation to pass or reject to the City Council following the November hearing. It could also move it along with no recommendation but that would be very rare, Aschleman said.

Written comments can be emailed to Denise Aschleman at [email protected] or mailed to Noblesville City Hall, 16 South 10th St., Ste B140, Noblesville, IN 46060 until Nov. 9th.

IndyStar photojournalist Colin Boyle contributed to this report.

Call IndyStar reporter John Tuohy at 317-444-6418. Email at [email protected] and follow on Twitter and Facebook.

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