Mining matters will again overtake the City Auditorium tonight (Wednesday) in what is likely to be another all-night affair.
The Sampson County Planning Board has heard 10 hours of talk on a mining proposal for Five Bridge Road, and is still expected to hear from many more residents opposed to the operation. At the last meeting, Clifton Hester, representing the contingent opposed to the request, expressed his desire to engage his own real estate appraiser as an expert witness. Nearly a dozen people also raised their hands with intentions to speak at the next meeting, on tap for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 13.
That is when the Planning Board will meet again to discuss a special use request by Draft and Design Services to develop a sand and gravel mining operation on a large tract of land on Five Bridge Road.
The Big Easy mine on Fleet Naylor was approved in November, on the heels of the White Sands Mine in close proximity to that area in September. A proposed mining operation on High House Road was denied. The Five Bridge proposal remains the sole request outstanding. All land is owned by Clark Wooten.
Close to 30 hours has already been spent in meetings over the past two months hearing mining issues.
“We’re still a ways from being done,” chairman Scott Brown said at the last meeting Dec. 28. “We’re trying to put an end to that continuous cycle. It would be my goal, my wish and my ambition to at least finish the public hearing and close that at the next meeting. We want to be fair to everyone. We didn’t limit the applicant and we’re not limiting the opposition.”
After mulling limitations on number of speakers, Brown ultimately said the sign-up sheet would be torn up and everyone who wished to speak could do so.
There has been no lack of speeches given on mining proposals. For months, resident after resident has voiced their displeasure over what one landowner wants to do with his property, saying his personal venture will not benefit the community and will act to hurt their quality of life.
The proposed Little Coharie Mine would operate 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, with no operations on Saturday or Sunday. Numerous conditions were proposed by the applicant that included moving the access gate away from the roadway, erecting a gate along the haul road and equipping that accessway with a sprinkler system to mitigate dust from traffic in and out of the plant.
Other conditions included increasing setbacks for the mining itself, and decreasing height of stockpiles and equipment.
Property values and harmony have been points of contention in discussions. At the last meeting, Rev. Mike Shook was one more than a dozen who spoke. He reiterated the group’s driving point that the mining operation would not be in harmony.
“I plead with you to give some consideration to the well-being, the future development, the harmony of a community where we live,” Shook implored the board. “It’s a beautiful place, a friendly place. Please think beyond the benefit that this will for the mine owner and think about what effect it will have when you try to recruit business, families and future development to Clinton and Sampson County. Leave a place of beauty and tranquility for our children and our grandchildren and future generations. Don’t just think of selfish interests.”
The applicant’s attorney Andrew Jackson has maintained that “competent, material and substantial evidence” by the applicant backs the request, and denial of the permit by the board could only come if evidence on the opposing side was equally as substantial. Lay witness testimony is “hearsay” and does not meet that standard, he has noted.
Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.