A group of concerned Clinton residents are attempting to stop mining operations proposed to develop over hundreds of acres on Five Bridge and High House roads, already erecting signs in opposition to the project and slated to meet Tuesday night to discuss it further.
Two special use requests have been made by Drafting and Design Services, Inc. to construct a mining (quarrying or other extracting) operation along Five Bridge Road as well as another along High House Road near Belvoir School Road, both in RA-Residential Agriculture districts.
The request was continued from the June meeting in order for the applicant to provide additional information requested by the Sampson County Planning Board. It was continued again July 20 and the issue is now slated to be considered during the board’s Aug. 17 meeting at the City Hall auditorium. The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m.
Before then, however, community residents who have been rallying in opposition against the mine are holding a community meeting. That gathering will be held at 7 p.m. tonight, Tuesday, Aug. 4, at McGee United Methodist Church.
“These two sites adjoin land that has homes, stream, and a church,” a letter signed by “The Citizens of Sampson County, Surrounding Land Owners of the Proposed Mining Sites” read. The letter was delivered to The Independent by Billie Jo King, whose mother is one the many property owners living in close proximity to the proposed site.
“Some of the homes that it will be near are more than 100 years old and are occupied,” the letter continued. “It was presented that the digging and dredging will be 40 to 50 feet deep and would continue up to 10 years and possibly more. The majority of the surrounding citizens are in the older and maturing ages being 65 to 85 years of age. We are very concerned for our property values but more importantly the health, water quality and land erosion for the surrounding homes and citizens.”
During July’s meeting, numerous adjacent landowners shared their concerns of declining property values, adverse health effects and the “noise, the traffic, the water quality and the erosion of the land” that would result from the two sites that would be mining concrete sand, mason sand and gravel. One citizen was very concerned as the plant would be less than 500 feet from their backyard, where there is a play area for children.
Michael 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, who owns and operates Tri-State Turf in Sampson County. Wooten was present at the July meeting as the owner of the properties, Clinton-Sampson Planning director Mary Rose said.
As proposed, the Five Bridge operation would operate from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. The operations will employ up to 10 people. Neither operation would have blasting to mine material, according to the proposals.
Specifically, the Five Bridge project under consideration contains approximately 510 acres, with the development encompassing 330.5 acres. The applicant is proposing to develop the property in several phases — the plant site of 26.3 acres, phase one mining area of 13.9 acres, phase two mining area of 171.6 acres, phase three of 27.3 acres and phase four consisting of 91.4 acres.
In the other request, the proposed sand and gravel mining operation on High House Road would operate Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. That property contains approximately 279.42 acres and the project would utilize about half the property, at 141.8 acres. Again, development is being proposed over multiple phases — the plant site of 9.7 acres, phase one mining area of 13.5 acres and the phase two mining area of 118.6 acres.
The Planning Board has already found that the proposed projects meet all setbacks and other dimensional criteria required by the Sampson County Zoning Ordinance. There will be a 6 foot tall berm around the mining operation as shown on the site plan.
For a special use permit to be granted, however, 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. No site disturbing activities are allowed until a mining permit has been issued by the State of North Carolina.
Residents said the site is already a disturbance and they don’t want to see that compounded by a mining operation.
“He is growing turf and the traffic with the trucks has had a large impact on the roads already,” the Citizens of Sampson County letter stated. “A mining facility will increase traffic as many as 40 to 50 more large trucks on a daily basis.”
A growing community would come to a halt should the operation be permitted at the proposed locations, the group said.
“A majority of the citizens have lived in these two communities for over 80 years and then they have passed down the rights to their children and so on. The communities are growing and the citizens feel that a mining facility would halt the addition of new homes and neighbors coming in and the families that have acquired the land and homes through the generations not wanting to stay in the area,” their letter read. “These areas are 6 to 7 miles from the city limits of Clinton, a great place to raise a family and have the great advantage of going to our county and city schools.”
In recent weeks, the group has established a Facebook page, erected the “say no to gravel pit” signs and distributed literature backing their contentions. One particular point the group is making is that exposure to dust from mining and crushing of gravel can lead to a variety of serious health hazards when it blows to nearby homes, notably the creation of a fine particulate matter called crystalline silica, a known carcinogen.
“We the citizens do not want a mining facility adjoining, adjacent or even near our homes and families as I know you would not,” the letter concluded. “Please help us voice our concerns … and stop the disruption in our lives.”
For more information, visit a Facebook page at Say no to sand/gravel mine on Five Bridge and High House Rds.
Reach staff writer Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.