Mound House mill operation could lose its permit

The milling operation at the Art Wilson Co. in Mound House is in jeopardy of being shut down after the company failed to comply with some of the conditions attached to its six-month, special-use permit.

Among the conditions of the special-use permit, which expired in September, were that the company mitigate the odor of burnt molasses, make road improvements including installing a culvert at the mine's entrance to Linehan Road and have all building permits completed and in order.

The Lyon County Commission on Thursday voted unanimously to direct staff to begin the process to revoke the mining company's special-use permit for the milling operation, which uses molasses to bind ore used to create rock materials for golf courses and other uses.

Wilson built the mill and began operating without getting the proper permits more than a year ago. When told he was violating county code, he filed for the special-use permit, but never got a building permit for the building the milling operation is in, or another building constructed at the mine.

Because the mine, which has been in operation for more than 40 years, predates zoning laws in Lyon County, it is not required to have a special-use permit, but the new milling operation must meet those requirements.

Bob Hightower, a company staffer who was representing Wilson, said the smell was no worse than if someone had a horse on an acre of land, or it was comparable to the smell in a pancake house.

"One neighbor and then two others have complained," he said. "What percentage of the community is this? Is there a level of complaints that brings county action?"

Hightower said the road repairs were done, but there was not sufficient room to install a culvert because of a water pipe that runs through the area.

He said building permits had been applied for on Nov. 29. The company was told in January the permits had to be obtained.

He said the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection visited the site and indicated it was in compliance, but Commission Chair Phyllis Hunewill said the letter from NDEP only acknowledged that the company agreed to a monitoring system.

Wilson was vacationing in Hawaii and not available for the meeting, though Hightower said he was aware of it.

Several Mound House residents spoke in opposition and still more wrote letters.

"Art Wilson is a wonderful man and he employs a lot of people, but the more you put this off, the more he's going to be dragging his feet," said neighbor Melinda Cash.

Though the Lyon County Planning Commission approved the extension for the permit, the commissioners were not sympathetic.

"It's not the intention of this board to put you out of business," said Commissioner Bob Milz. "You go merrily on your way about your business and then come back and try to make it right. I think you need a jolt of reality to make you do what you have to do."

Commissioner LeRoy Goodman, who said he has known Art Wilson all his life, agreed.

"He never met the conditions of approval," Goodman said. "This can't go on for the safety and health of the residents of Mound House."

Goodman said he visited the area recently and when he got out of his car, the odor was noticeable.

"You can smell that stuff," he said. "That is not a pleasant smell. I don't know what I'd do if I lived there."

Goodman also said Wilson had a habit of doing what he wanted then dealing with the county later.

"It's easier to ask for forgiveness than to get the permits," he said, adding that county staff should make an onsite inspection to see what progress was being made to meet the conditions.

• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at or 881-7351.


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