Commissioners deny re-zoning for Rogers Group

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

By Karen Hall


County commissioners denied Rogers Group's request to re-zone 95 acres they own near Chapel Hill in order to extend their rock-quarrying operations.

The vote Monday came after a 30-minute public hearing when at least 10 people who live in the area voiced their concern. The Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously gave a favorable recommendation to the Rogers Group request, but none of the affected residents attended their meeting, reported Zoning Director Don Nelson.

Robert Griggs of Kenny Nelson Road was the first to speak at the public hearing.

Griggs said he built his house 15 years ago, and now all the concrete is cracked.

"The blasting knocks pictures off the wall," he exclaimed. "It's so severe now, it's unbearable. I'm very against it."

He also mentioned concerns about his well. There is no city water on Kenny Nelson Road, so if his well goes dry due to changes underground caused by blasting, or becomes polluted, Griggs has no source of water.

James Kincaid, who also lives on Kenny Nelson Road, echoed Griggs' concerns about the water, stating one of his wells went dry three years ago, and water from the other is already undrinkable, due, he said, to pollution caused by Rogers Group's blasting.

"They're not as well regulated as they need to be," said Kincaid of the company's operations. "There's a lot of things about it the average person don't know."

Brad Barcheers lives on Highway 99 and said he is already feeling the effects of Rogers Group's quarrying.

"I've got sink holes coming in my yard," he said. "I've spent a lot of money remodeling my house and the cracks are still there."

Barcheers said his house has a full basement, and shakes so much when there is a blast he's afraid the house will all fall into the basement.

"You're welcome to come look," Barcheers told commissioners. "I'm very against this."

Agreeing with Barcheers, Martha Watt, a resident of Kenny Nelson Road, said, "I ask that you vote, 'No.'"

Watt said she's two and a half miles from the current quarry, but already has cracks in her house's foundation and sink holes in her yard.

"We are living on top of caverns, springs and caves," she said. "I worry about the Duck River."

Coleman Michaels, who lives on Highway 99, spoke to the severity of the blasting.

"The first time it happened, I thought it was an earthquake," he said. "My house is destroyed! I don't want to fix it because every month there are new cracks. I'm totally against it."

"I'm completely against it," agreed Tabitha Thompson. "My concern is the ground opening up and swallowing my grandchildren."

Rogers Group Division Vice President Randy Butler was the only one who spoke in favor of the re-zoning.

"Rogers has been there since 1988," he said. "We have tried to be a good neighbor. We are in compliance with state law for dust and vibration. We want to continue to mine there."

"There's no possible way some of those blasts can be within legal limits," exclaimed Griggs.

Commissioner Seth Warf asked how much longer Rogers Group could work at their current site without the re-zoning, and Butler said it would be 15 or 20 more years, if they kept going deeper.

In response to more questions from Warf and Commissioner R.L. Williams, Butler assured them Rogers Group would "make it right" if a neighbor lost the use of their well.

"We've never had to solve a well issue in 20 years of doing this," Butler said.

The public hearing ended and the regular commission meeting began, and Chairman Mike Waggoner moved the vote on the two resolutions affecting Rogers Group to the top of the agenda, so that people who came for the public hearing would not have to stay through the whole meeting.

Commissioner John Christmas recounted the number of people who had phoned or emailed him with concerns about the quarry expanding.

"We're up to 35 opposing it," he said. "Clearly, people in the area have spoken; we should do our job and vote, 'No.'"

The two re-zoning resolutions failed by votes of 16 to 1, with District 2 Commissioner Joseph Warner casting the lone Yes vote. (Commissioner Phil Willis was absent.)

When asked why he voted that way, Warner said, "Marshall County Stone (another quarry) did the same last month (November). Everyone voted in favor of re-zoning 80 acres for them. If it's OK for one, it's OK for the other."

Warner did add that in Marshall County Stone's case, no residents came to speak at the public hearing.