Some Whitesburg residents are asking why they were not told that a rock quarry might be built on 360 acres north of town.
And both the mayor and past and present commissioners for the area told the Times-Georgian on Thursday they are all opposed to the plan.
Norcross-based developer Green Rock, LLC wants to build the quarry on approximately 360 acres at the intersection of Black Dirt and Hutcheson Ferry Roads. That is according to a copy of a June 8 memo by Three Rivers Regional Commission Planner Kimberly Dutton obtained by the newspaper.
The developer estimates the value of the property to be $20 million, according to the memo, which notes the development will affect protected river corridors and floodplains. The document adds that buffers, retention ponds, and stormwater drainage designs will comply with the requirements of the Army Corps of Engineers and the state’s rules for surface minings.
“What has people frustrated down here in Whitesburg is that the county received a copy (of the proposal) from Three Rivers on June 8,” said former District 5 Commissioner and Whitesburg resident Kevin Jackson. “I know there had to have been discussions before then, and we’re all just finding out today and yesterday. That’s 10-12 days.”
Because this is a quarry, the plan is subject to a Development of Regional Impact (DRI) study through the state Department of Community of Affairs. That review process includes giving parties who may be affected by the project the opportunity to comment before the state decides whether to approve the proposal.
Jackson said the county’s zoning rules make it unnecessary for the developer to present the plan and a rezoning request to the Carroll County Planning and Zoning Commission. That’s because the land is now zoned agricultural, and quarrying is a permitted use of agricultural land.
According to the county’s zoning ordinance, permitted uses of agricultural land include the development of natural resources, including the removal of minerals and natural materials, provided that no machinery used for that removal is located less than 200 feet from any property line.
The proposal also does not have to go before the Carroll County Board of Commissioners. The county commission typically has the final say on approving rezoning requests brought to them by developers and residents.
Whitesburg Mayor Amy Williford said the zoning ordinance should have been changed by the county before now and added she agrees with landowners who feel they have “been done dirty.”
“The way the county has their ordinance written, they did not have to get any special permits to take minerals or whatever off the property,” Williford said. “Everyone feels like it was just slid in behind their backs with nobody’s opinion. I really hurt for the landowners. That’s where my heart breaks is for the landowners. They feel like they’ve been done dirty, and I agree with them.”
Construction is estimated to take nine months and is pending approval from all necessary parties. Those affected parties are the Three Rivers Regional Commission Council, city and county elected officials in Carroll, Douglas, Fulton and Coweta counties, as well as their school superintendents.
These parties were offered the opportunity comment during a 15-day period between June 8 and June 23, but current District 5 Commissioner Ernest Reynolds told the newspaper that the period has been extended 60 days.
Jackson said the comment period was extended 60 days because of the “uproar” from Whitesburg residents who would potentially be affected by the project.
Reynolds said he is just as against the plan as others in the area.
“The main thing I want people to know is that I am opposed to it, and it has nothing to do with it coming to the county,” Reynolds said. “I’m surprised and against it for the reasons that (the Whitesburg residents) are.
“Something like this in the middle of a peaceful agricultural community is a detriment to the roads, it’s a detriment to the peace and quiet, and it’s a detriment to the safety and traffic there. I am totally opposed to it.”
Anyone who feels they will be impacted by the project can contact Three Rivers Regional Commission Planner Dutton at email@example.com with their concerns. The Three Rivers Regional Commission is a 10-county planning organization, including Carroll, that helps facilitate workforce development, transportation, and regional planning with government officials.
Reynolds said he is working with the county’s attorneys to revise the ordinance to make a distinction between removing rocks and minerals at a rock quarry versus removing agricultural crops. While successfully changing the ordinance will not work retroactively on the rock quarry, he said it would affect future developments.
“I took immediate steps to discuss this with county attorneys,” Reynolds wrote on his Facebook page on Thursday. “From this discussion, I found that the county cannot prevent such an operation on agriculturally-zoned property. The county’s ordinance allows for the removal of minerals and rock from such property, much the same as removing a planted crop from such property.”