Two pending special use applications to construct mining operations along Five Bridge Road and High House Road were withdrawn Wednesday, a day after members of the community rallied in opposition against the request.
A large group gathered Tuesday night at McGee United Methodist Church to ask questions, raise concerns and sign petitions against the proposed mining operations. Two special use requests were on the table from Michael Blakley of Drafting and Design Services, Inc.for to establish the operations at the property, said to be owned by Belvoir Sod, LLC.
Those have now been taken off the table, at least for the time being.
A letter was sent by Attorney Andrew Jackson to Clinton-Sampson Planning director Mary Rose Wednesday to inform her of the decision. The matter was to be the subject of a Aug. 17 Planning Board meeting. Rose said she will inform the board at that time the request has been withdrawn.
Jackson, representing Belvoir Sod, LLC, said the pending requests were being withdrawn, adding, “my client reserves the right to re-submit the applications at a later date.”
Blakley signed the special use application as the applicant for both the Five Bridge and High House properties, said to be owned by Belvoir Sod, LLC. All land is owned by County Commissioner Clark Wooten, Rose noted.
During July’s Sampson County Planning Board meeting, numerous adjacent landowners shared their concerns of declining property values, adverse health effects and the increased noise and traffic, and declining water quality they felt would result from mining operations. Many echoed those comments at Tuesday’s meeting.
“Up until a couple of weeks ago, a lot of people didn’t know what was going on,” said Billy Satterfield, who resides on High House Road. He led the meeting and commented on the increased traffic anticipated due to the operation, estimated at 150 trucks a day. “That’s no small number. They drive in and out all day and they’re going to bother people. It just devastates the neighborhood.”
Residents Carrie Cooper and Billie Jo King said they went to a similar operation in Ivanhoe recently and discovered a fairly vacant area devoid of many residences, but home to plenty of blowing dust.
“You’re talking about two different areas,” Cooper explained, noting the American Materials operation in Ivanhoe was surrounded by wood and not in what she deemed a residential area. “In my opinion, I can’t imagine anyone saying that’s OK to go in my backyard. It’s not a pretty sight. I saw nothing but dust everywhere. All you see on the road is trucks and all you see in that area is sand and dust.”
The Five Bridge operation was proposed to operate from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. That project area contained approximately 510 acres, with the proposed development encompassing 330.5 acres. The High House Road operation was proposed to operate Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. That property contains approximately 279.42 acres and the project was to utilize about half the property, at 141.8 acres.
Neither operation was to have blasting to mine material, according to the proposals.
For a special use permit to be granted, the board must find that the use: will not materially endanger the public health or safety if located according to plans; meets all required conditions and specifications; will not substantially injure the value of adjoining or abutting property, or that the use is a public necessity; and that it will be in harmony with the area and in general conformity with the Sampson County Land Use Plan.
Following approval by the board, the zoning administrator is authorized to issue a special use permit.
Attorney Zachary Rivenbark, who lives in Clinton but practices in Fayetteville, offered his services pro bono during the Tuesday night meeting.
“I feel like this is wrong,” he told the group. “It’s not right for a vast number of reasons. I feel like they’re just trying to jam this through. Mr. Wooten has the burden of proof to prove to the board he can meet the four elements and I don’t think he can do it.”
Jackson was at Tuesday night’s meeting and Rivenbark asked the group if they wanted to ask him any questions about the request or operation. Many said they did not, and Jackson did not speak publicly at that time. A message left at Jackson’s Clinton office Wednesday was not immediately returned.
Anthony Clapper, a resident of Belvoir School Road, was handing out yard signs following Tuesday night’s meeting that read “Say no to gravel pit.” Clapper’s property backs up to a large expanse where sod is grown and one of the mining operations was proposed.
He showed pictures of a play area that was mere feet from the property line abutting the Belvoir Sod property, less than 100 feet from his back door.
“I have no issue with a guy making money, but don’t do it off my back,” Clapper said. “That’s going to affect my livelihood for the next 15-20 years. It’s not something I’m taking lightly.”
Another community meeting of the group, which is calling themselves “Belvoir Township-No to Mining,” is still on for 7 p.m. next Thursday, Aug. 13, at the church.
Reach staff writer Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.