Art Wilson didn't believe there would be any problems after he expanded his Mound House gypsum mine to include a mineral-processing building.
He said didn't realize he would need a special-use permit, since his mine predates the zoning and other land-use regulations that were put in place in the 1970s. The 1960s-era mine also predates the nearby residential development.
But then the odor of burnt molasses, used in the processing of minerals mined at the facility, brought complaints from neighbors and the attention of the county. Wilson applied for the required permit a year-and-a-half after the processing operation had begun.
The Lyon County Planning Commission approved the application Tuesday on the condition that he get rid of the odor.
"When we started putting this in, we didn't feel we needed a special-use permit because we had been mining for 20 years," Wilson said. "This was a surprise that we had to get a special-use permit for a plant that has been operating for a year, year-and-a-half."
But Melinda Cash, who lives next to the mine on Linehan Road, said Wilson has been in business long enough to know the rules.
"If they had done this legally, I would have had a chance to oppose this special-use permit," she said, adding it is pointless to oppose permits for a plant that was built and is operating.
Cash said the argument that the mine was there first wasn't justified, since the operation was much smaller before homes were built in the community.
"When a lot of these homes were built, that mine was not the same mine you see today," she said. "Now, that smell almost drove me from my home.
"I have a right to go home after working hard all day and enjoy my home. If someone came up to my home and wanted to buy it, there is no way they would buy it with that smell there."
Cash said she preferred that the mill operation be torn out, but Wilson argued that would be a burden to the 62 employees working there now.
The special-use permit brought several letters of opposition from three other residents.
But Gordon Hutting of the Mound House Advisory Council said they didn't object to the permit so long as the smell was mitigated and a culvert installed at the entrance to the facility to improve drainage within six months.
The commissioners approved the permit with those stipulations and will review the permit in six months to see that the problems are solved.
Wilson said he had already begun an engineering study to find the best way to contain the odor.
• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at email@example.com or 882-2111 ext. 351.