Quarry rezoning request not recommended

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Marshall County Planning Commission withheld approval of a request by Rogers Group to expand operations at their Pottsville quarry.

Neighbors of the quarry turned out for the meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 21, to express opposition to the requested rezoning of 309 acres adjoining the current quarry from A-1, undeveloped agricultural use, to M-1, a classification which would allow the quarrying of limestone on the property.

The Planning Commission heard their concerns and voted to send the request to the County Commission with an unfavorable recommendation.

“This is a tough one, people,” said Planning Commission Chair Ray Wakefield,” and our part, with planning, is trying our best to be as fair to everyone as much as we can and some of y’all are going to leave unhappy.”

“Can I use between a rock and a hard place?” asked Wakefield.

The request was split into two separate tracts, of 194 acres and 115 acres, respectively, along Collins West Road.

Both requests had been tabled at the last meeting of the commission after opposition from area residents concerned about damage to their homes from blasting at the existing quarry, road conditions along Highway 99 due to truck traffic from the quarry, and overall negative impacts on their quality of life.

The Planning Commission used the time to speak with neighbors within a one mile radius of the quarry and to attend a blast at the Pottsville location to see for themselves the impact of blasting at the site.

At the meeting, opponents painted a different picture of life around Pottsville than Rogers Group did with their demonstration.

“They are not good neighbors,” said area resident Anna Whitworth. “They don’t care.”

Whitworth’s view was shared by the several other neighbors who spoke against the rezoning.

Sixth District County Commissioner Toby Adams, whose district includes the area, expressed frustrations as well.

Adams said that he had been meeting with residents and the company for several weeks in an effort to arrive at some common ground.

He expressed frustration that twice Rogers Group had told him that they would send representatives to speak with neighbors but had not done so.

“That’s twice I’ve been told something that went south,” said Adams.

Derek Roberts, area vice president for Rogers, spoke on the efforts the company had already made to ease the concerns of neighbors.

The company had pared down the amount of work done on the weekends, contracted to have the Highway 99 swept three times per week, quieted equipment on the site, and began using an additive which reduced smell from the asphalt plant, he said.

“We fit well with the existing use of the properties out there,” said Roberts, citing the neighboring Volunteer Materials quarry adjoining the Pottsville site.

“My concern is the amount of property being asked for,” said Wakefield.”I think it’s a lot of property to just say blankly we want to approve all of this.”

“I find it difficult to vote against the people who live around it,” said commission member Lavoy Ledford.

Three of the six commission members were absent, forcing Wakefield, as the chair, to act as a voting member in order to form a quorum, required for voting.

Wakefield, Ledford, and Rick Seaton voted in favor of an unfavorable recommendation for the larger parcel.

Todd Tietgens voted against the motion to recommend against the rezoning.

One the second parcel considered the commission voted unanimously to send an unfavorable recommendation to the full County Commission.

The rezoning request will be placed on the agenda for the County Commission in January for their final vote.

Wakefield expressed his own frustration that, other than Adams, county commissioners were absent from the session.

“I would really like to appeal to county commissioners to be there for public outcry as well as for the vote,” he said.

“For the county commission not to hear the vote and outcry is a disgrace,” he said. “If you can’t hear the discussion of the people how can you vote on it?”

Rogers Group requested a zoning change for 95 acres to the west of the current pit in 2015. Opposition from neighbors at that time lead the County Commission to vote down the request 16-1.