Cemex seeks expansion
- Published: September 25, 2014
Cemex is determined to expand its limestone mining operation into Xenia Township southwest of Yellow Springs.
The company, which operates a cement plant on Linebaugh Road, wants to quarry a 290-acre property east of Ohio 235, south of West Hyde Road and west of West Enon Road.
Since the land is not zoned for mineral extraction, Cemex initially asked Xenia Township to rezone the property, a request that was denied by township trustees in 2011.
Now Cemex is seeking to have several parcels annexed into Fairborn, which would pave the way for mining. At the same time, Xenia Township Trustees have asked their zoning board to reconsider rezoning the property to mineral extraction to prevent annexation.
Either way, Cemex will likely mine limestone at the Xenia Township property, a development that neighbors of the proposed quarry were dismayed to learn about at a public hearing two weeks ago.
Annexation of 306 acres owned by Cemex in Bath Township between Fairborn and the Xenia Township property in question will be complete in October. Though Cemex does not intend to mine the Bath Township land, it gives the company the ability to request that Fairborn annex the Xenia Township property.
Cemex also plans to seek annexation of more than 1,000 additional acres in Xenia Township, property that is located just west of Ohio 235 both north and south of Dayton-Yellow Springs Road and which is appraised at $4.7 million. In total Cemex owns nearly 4,000 acres in the area.
Xenia Township is looking at rezoning so that more tax revenues would stay within the township, annexation of additional township land would be halted and Cemex would have to comply with the township’s stricter zoning regulations, according to Xenia Township administrator Alan Stock.
But residents are skeptical. As area resident Dan O’Callahan sees it: “The trustees are stuck between a rock and a gravel pit.”
“If we approve the zoning change we do it under Xenia Township regulations and rules which provide buffering and a bunch of other safeguards for the residents,” O’Callahan said. “But if we approve it, they can start mining the day after it’s approved … I prefer the delay tactic.”
Neighbors also said they were worried that if the property were mined, water wells would collapse, dynamite explosions would shake their homes, dust would impair their health, and property values would plummet, among other concerns.
The Xenia Township zoning commission will meet to decide whether to rezone the property Tuesday, Sept. 23, at the Trustee Offices, 8 Brush Row Rd., Xenia. The Xenia Township Trustees will later meet to approve or deny the zoning change.
Cemex, meanwhile, sees the expansion of its mining operation as essential to the plant’s future according to a statement from Sara Engdahl, director of communications for Cemex USA.
“CEMEX recently entered into an annexation agreement with the City of Fairborn in order to provide long-term sustainability for our cement plant, including our quarry, by securing mineral reserves located on Cemex’s property,” the statement read.
Fairborn City Manager Debbie McDonnell added that the Cemex cement plant, which largely manufactures ready-mix concrete for building projects, would likely shut down in five to eight years if it could not mine the Xenia Township land and that Fairborn benefits by keeping a long-standing local company in business, along with close to 100 jobs.
“They were facing a shut down if they could not get the mineral rights for this land, which they have owned for a long time,” McDonnell said. “So we put our hands out and said ‘We value you and we’re going to help you.’ ”
Cemex owns nearly 4,000 acres in the area, including about 1,000 acres in Xenia Township, according to Stock. If the land is annexed into Fairborn, Xenia Township will lose some, but not all of its tax revenue from Cemex, he added.
Cemex, a Mexico-based company, is one of the world’s largest cement manufacturers. Its cement plant is located four miles southwest of Yellow Springs and upwind of the village and Miami Township. Cemex is one of the top three polluters of both nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide in the Dayton/Springfield region and the largest single emitter of particulate pollution, according to the Dayton Regional Air Pollution Control Agency.
Neighbors voice frustration
About 35 neighbors of the potential quarry site voiced their frustration at a Xenia Township zoning commission hearing two weeks ago. Many said they saw the Xenia Township rezoning move as a “gift” to Cemex, while zoning administrator Alan Stock said that the plan was forged with residents’ interests in mind.
“Xenia Township has one of the most restrictive zoning resolutions if any township or city around,” Stock explained. “The trustee’s heart was, if the annexation happens and the zoning happens, is there any response we as trustees can take?”
For example, Xenia Township requires that mining activity be set back at least 450 feet away from a residential district with excavation of more than six feet, while in Fairborn the setback requirement is only 250 feet. Temporary roads can’t be closer than 200 feet in Fairborn, but must be 400 feet away in Xenia Township.
Because the Fairborn annexation is a Type II annexation, it is nearly impossible for an outside entity like Xenia Township to stop it, Stock added at the meeting. If the Xenia Township Trustees approve the rezoning, they would have to hope that either Cemex or Fairborn pull out of the annexation agreement.
At the meeting more than a dozen attendees spoke against the rezoning, while no one present spoke in favor. As one resident put it: “It’s not a foregone conclusion that Fairborn will allow mining.”
But according to Cemex’s pre-annexation agreement with Fairborn, Cemex can de-annex if the Fairborn City Council does not rezone the property to allow mining, Stock said. So it’s likely that rezoning will move forward.
Jan Smolinski, who lives on West Enon Road, said that despite the likelihood of the land being annexed into Fairborn, “We don’t have to make it easier for them.”
Among Smolinski’s top concerns are that property values are already declining in the area as residents sell out of fear, a “downward spiral” that will only get worse when mining begins. He is also worried that a gas line runs through the property.
“No right-thinking person can tell me that blasting around a natural gas pipeline improves the safety,” Smolinski said.
Numerous residents spoke about health concerns of mining, many citing the prevalence of lung and brain cancers in the area of the local quarry.
Richard Stockton expressed skepticism that any reclamation of the land would bring back the productivity and natural beauty now there, since most of the land is currently being used as farmland. He cited the desolation of the Oakes Quarry Park in Fairborn, a former Cemex gravel pit, which “looks like a meteorite hit it.”
“We’re not in short supply of concrete but our population is growing and our farmland is dwindling,” Stockton said. “The future is not in cement. The future is in sustainable agriculture.”
Fairborn reaches out
While Xenia Township stands to lose up to 1,000 acres that Cemex owns in its jurisdiction, Fairborn will gain more land and more tax revenue. The plant has 100 employees and a payroll of $6.4 million, according the Cemex. But McDonnell, the Fairborn City manager, said that those benefits were not a big driver of the deal.
“This is all about saving this company — this is not a land grab,” McDonnell said. “The driving force behind this was really economic development,” she added. “I can’t afford for them to leave.
McDonnell said that Cemex approached the city when Xenia Township denied its request to rezone the property in 2011. Fairborn has had a long relationship with Cemex, which has had a cement plant in the city for more than 90 years (including under previous owners). Cemex underscored that relationship in its statement.
“CEMEX is proud to be a vital partner in the greater Fairborn community and local economy … CEMEX has deep roots in the community including the CEMEX baseball fields, involvement with United Way, local schools, and the installation of the downtown Fairborn Christmas tree for over 40 years.”
If Cemex is retained, the Dayton region will also benefit from lower costs for construction materials, since Cemex sells some of its ready-mix concrete locally, as well as shipping it out, McDonnell explained.
McDonnell added that Cemex likely won’t quarry the Xenia Township land for 10 years or longer, that Fairborn’s zoning regulations require adequate setbacks and visual screening and that Cemex does a stellar job of reclaiming its quarries to Ohio Department of Natural Resources standards.
According to McDonnell, the annexation agreement also includes a provision that the entirety of Cemex’s land holdings be annexed into Fairborn when its operation is complete so that the land can be redeveloped for the city.
The Cemex plant on Linebaugh Road in Bath Township is one of the company’s 14 Portland cement kiln plants in the U.S. It is also one of two remaining cement plants in Ohio and the only one located in southern Ohio.
Cemex is the world’s leading supplier of ready-mix concrete and a leading producer of other cement products used in “virtually every construction, road and building project in Fairborn, Greene County and elsewhere throughout Ohio,” according to the annexation agreement.