The request for a special use permit for a mining venture on Five Bridge Road has yet to be decided, even after the Sampson County Planning Board met for nearly six hours on the matter Thursday night.
The board convened for their third related meeting, having met in November and approved a similar request for a mine on Fleet Naylor Road, on the heels of the White Sands Mine’s approval in September. The White Sands Mine is in close proximity to the Big Easy Mine. Later last month, that same board denied the request for a mine on High House Road, following a marathon meeting, lasting until 2 a.m.
Thursday night’s meeting lasted until 12:15 a.m., but drew a much smaller crowd than that of the previous meetings. During both November meetings, City Hall Auditorium offered a standing-room only setting, but a ew vacant seats were seen this go around.
“The meeting adjourned at 12:15 a.m., with the applicant completing their presentation,” planner Mary Rose stated Friday morning. “The meeting was continued to Monday, Dec. 28, at 6:30 p.m. to then hear from any opposition to the request.”
For a special use permit to be granted, the board had to find four things, including that the use: would not materially endanger the public health or safety; met all required conditions and specifications; would not substantially injure the value of adjoining or abutting property; and would be in harmony with the area and in general conformity with the Sampson County Land Use Plan.
Attorney Andrew Jackson, who is representing the applicant, Drafting and Design Services, Inc., has provided the board with an abundance of expert testimony, bringing in geologistsand other mine specialists to support the applicant’s claim that all requirements are being met.
More than 30 people in opposition were ready to speak if given the chance Thursday night, signing up for the opportunity and taking an oath of honesty before testimony began. According to Rose, no one opposing the matter was able to speak at the meeting, but the next meeting will afford them the chance.
“The applicant completed their testimony, but will be permitted a rebuttal after the opposition speaks,” Rose said, referring to the Dec. 28 meeting.
Board members Ann Naylor and Gary Henry were absent from the previous two meetings, but all board members were present for Thursday night’s testimony. Much of the same questions were asked at this third meeting, and many of the same concerns were addressed.
During the last meeting, held Nov. 24, the board mulled over buffing stipulations — minimum tree height along the property and stockpile height among them. Michael Blakely of Drafting and Design Services, Inc. offered expert testimony to the board’s concerns of the design meeting those stipulations.
Throughout the entire process, residents of the Five Bridge Road area have expressed their concerns with trucks stacking in the area and the increase in the amount of dust in the air. Blakely assured the board, and residents, that both concerns have been addressed and would not pose a problem once the mine was operational.
In previous testimony, Blakely asserted that the use would not substantially decrease the value of adjoining properties and was in harmony with the area. It was “wet dredging” operation, and would not bring dust with it. There were air quality and other mandates by which such operations are governed.
“Stockpiles are wet and a water truck will be used if they get dry,” said Blakley said. “Essentially, what we’re doing is building a pond and selling the materials we get out of it.”
While residents of the Five Bridge Road area didn’t get the chance to speak Thursday night, their opposition has been expressed in previous meetings. Brent Lewis, who is trying to sell property on the road, spoke last month, sharing his concerns with the mine.
Lewis said he was already feeling the ill effects of the mine’s presence, even though it was not even there yet. Trying to sell his house on Five Bridge Road, he had an agreed-upon price. However, after the sale was delayed around the same time the mine discussion began in the community earlier this year, Lewis noticed interest waned and offers ceased. He was forced to drop the asking price by $10,000 from the previously agreed-upon price, $15,000 from the original asking price.
There was a “drastic reduction” in people interested in even looking, he noted.
“There was no testimony (from the applicant) from people who actually tried to sell their house and were unable to,” Lewis explained. “I feel like my testimony addresses that.”
In all, approximately 21 hours of time has been spent hearing mining issues related to proposed mines on Fleet Naylor Road, High House Road and Five Bridge Road, with the Five Bridge Road mine issue still unsettled.
The board will meet Monday, Dec. 28, at 6:30 p.m. to hear the opposition to the mine.
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.