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Jeff Daniels of 'The Newsroom' Joins Chelsea Neighbors Opposing Gravel Pit

The acclaimed actor thought about how his dad, a longtime Chelsea businessman, would have handled the situation. If a plan had been good for his company but bad for the community, "he would kill it," Daniels said. "It wouldn't get off his desk."

Jeff Daniels, who won the Best Actor Emmy Award in 2013 for “The Newsroom, spoke in opposition to a sand and gravel mine many of his neighbors said would diminish their quality of life. (Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Jeff Daniels, who won the Best Actor Emmy Award in 2013 for “The Newsroom, spoke in opposition to a sand and gravel mine many of his neighbors said would diminish their quality of life. (Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Tony- and Emmy Award-winning actor Jeff Daniels, one of Chelsea's most recognizable and famous residents, joined about 500 of his neighbors Thursday in opposing a new sand and gravel mine operation in Lyndon Township.

Daniels won the Emmy Award for Best Actor in 2013 for his portrayal of the protagonist Will McAvoy on HBO’s hit series “The Newsroom,” but on Thursday, he was just another Washtenaw County resident when he approached the microphone to speak against the mining operation at a town hall meeting, The Ann Arbor News/MLive reports.

Before coming out against the application for special land-use and mining permits by McCoig Materials Inc. for operations that would occur at 18100 and 18200 M-52, Daniels said he he did some soul searching to think about how his father, who ran a successful lumber business for a number of years, might have handled the situation.

“... If it was right for the lumber company and right for the community, he’d go ahead,” Daniels said. “But if it was right for the company and it wasn’t necessarily right for everyone in the community, or if it would impact the community negatively, he would kill it.

“It wouldn’t get off of his desk.”

Daniels and several others spoke against mining on the land near the corner of M-52 and North Territorial that is owned by the Donald and Janet L. Cunningham Trust. The property was chosen by the ForEnergy LLC, a Lowell consulting company that has been communicating with Washtenaw County officials and area residents to move the plan forward on behalf of McCoig Materials..

“When I see the passion [citizens are showing] we want to show empathy toward that and work with people. We respect their views,” Tim Forrell, who owns the consulting company said.

“Believe it or not, we are going to do everything we can to work with them as best we can,” he said. “Unfortunately there is no perfect site for a sand and gravel operation. It just doesn’t exist.”

More than 200 residents came out on a snowy night in February to oppose the quarry operation on the land after it was identified as an ideal site because of its access to M-52.

Time doesn’t seem to have tempered the opposition and after more than three hours of comments Thursday, the Lyndon Township Planning Commission agreed to give the consulting company until April 11 to respond to questions, both from the public and township officials.

After one resident complained that email correspondence to the Planning Commission had bounced back, Chairman Kevin McLaughlin said the volume of correspondence on the issue has been so great that “we may have maxed out our township server.”

“We do seem to be receiving a lot of mail about this,” he said.

Opponents included residents who cited diminishing quality of life, plummeting property values and possible health issues if the operation is approved to University of Michigan experts in geology, law and environmental epidemiology.

“It seems to me like they must have whacked a hornet's nest because I had no idea we had so many experts living out here,” one of the speakers, Kathy Bradbury, said.

Gene Murphy, who owns property on Island Lake, said he and other landowners who, together, control about $10 million in real estate, had “a reasonable expectation of what Lyndon Township would be.”

“McCoig’s expectation of making a profit requires us property owners to give them millions from the investments we’ve made,” he said.

Some Chelsea residents raised questions about the effect heavy truck traffic – perhaps as many as 80 round trips a day – will have on M-52 if the operation is approved. Daniels said during his remarks that Stofer Hill, one of the highest points in Washtenaw County, would go under water over the course of 30 years if the gravel quarry operation is allowed.

“The last thing we need around here is another lake 30 years from now,” Daniels said during his remarks. “So that’s not much of a selling point.”

DISCUSS: Do you support the development of a new gravel and sand mining operation in the area? Tell us why or why not in the comments.

John Sheriff March 15, 2014 at 07:56 AM
Has anyone asked how it could benefit the community? Could agreements be put in place where M-52 is not only maintained but improved under terms of that agreement? Could there be an agreement to purchase water from the water plant in Sylvan Township? Have you researched what other gravel companies have done to continuously improve the land around their properties for future use as residential lake communities 30-years from now such as Mid Michigan Materials has done in Jeddo, Michigan. Perhaps there are benefits to the communities that have not been considered or proposed.
Cheryl Caffrey March 15, 2014 at 08:25 AM
Chelsea is marketed on its charm and quaintness. 16 double hauler trailer trucks rolling through town every hour will ruin this and cause businesses and residents to move. There is no amount of money that could repair this. Dexter will have its own problems too as the unloaded trucks may travel down North Territorial to get to the mine from US 23. Do you expect the WCRC to fix this road when they can't fix what is already a problem? Bikers won't come to Chelsea due to the hazards of these trucks, and they may not go to Dexter either on the concern that the independent truck drivers may find some Dexter back roads to use as quick routes to the mine to avoid the Chelsea rush hours from 7-8 and 3-6. We don't need another residential lake. We need our fen and our Green Lake and our area that attracts over 300 visitors each weekend and our Chelsea's Sounds and Sights festivals. We don't need an out of town company taking our investments and calling it theirs just so they can make more of a profit and skip the middle man. MDOT has said it's McCoig's responsibility to do the truck study (which has only focused on the in and out of the mine site so far) and Lyndon Township to consider the safty, dirt, noise, dust (which would likely just be those roads in the township). None of the City of Chelsea's concerns are being addressed by those looking to take over our town.... and the concerns "along the haul route" (the whole haul route) are to be addressed when considering serious consequences which is a reason for denial. Perhaps Dexter residents should also do traffic study on North Territorial for 80 trucks a day may use that road to return to the mine site.
skoudelka March 15, 2014 at 09:16 AM
Good Luck to you, Chelsea. A number of years ago our community in Milford Township fought a gravel pit...Exactly the same situation. We, as citizens, fought the gravel pit with gusto to keep the gravel pit and the trucks and the noise and the dirt out. We fought with lawyers, meetings, signs and common sense. We lost. Why? Our quality of life was not as important as business and money.
Cheryl Caffrey March 15, 2014 at 11:19 AM
Milflord - Did the sand mine have to run their trucks through the center of your town? How is your town doing?
Germaine Gebhard March 20, 2014 at 09:09 AM
I would like to respond to John Sheriff's comment. Yes, pretty much everyone has asked if there is any way it can benefit the community and the answer is a resounding no, there is no benefit to the community. The permit applicant has said road maintenance is not their problem, that cost will fall on the taxpayers. Getting municipal water from Sylvan township is not feasible either, it's miles away and would cost tens of millions of dollars, again, falling on the taxpayers. Currently all Lyndon Twp residents use wells for water, that's almost 3000 people. The permit applicant has not volunteered to cover any of the costs of their impact to the community. There are appropriate locations for sand mines, in the middle of a state park and county park system in an environmentally sensitive area is not one of them. The DNR has offered to help the applicant find a more suitable site. The applicant should take them up on that offer and be a good corporate citizen and not a community killer.

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