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Mining rezone decision expected Monday

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				                                Brad Storie speaks during public comments at the Yadkin County Board of Commissioners meeting on the ‘mental anguish’ caused by the ongoing uncertainty of whether or not an aggregate mine could be built in Hamptonville.

Brad Storie speaks during public comments at the Yadkin County Board of Commissioners meeting on the ‘mental anguish’ caused by the ongoing uncertainty of whether or not an aggregate mine could be built in Hamptonville.

A decision is expected at next Monday’s meeting of the Yadkin County Planning Board on a rezoning request that would allow for an aggregate quarry in Hamptonville, just behind West Yadkin Elementary School. The Planning Board has discussed the proposal and heard from the applicant, Three Oaks Quarry as well as opponents of the mine at both its April and May meetings. Area residents opposed to the project have also been vocal at numerous County Board meetings in recent months.

The meeting is planned for 7 p.m. on Monday, June 13 in the Yadkin County Commissioners’ Chambers in the Human Services building located at 217 E. Willow Street in Yadkinville.

Yadkin County Zoning Officer Seth Harris said the board has the option to recommend for or against the rezoning request or make no recommendation at all.

The parcel of land in question is located near 3641 Hwy US 21 in Hamptonville and is currently zoned as Rural Agriculture. Three Oaks Quarry, owned by real estate developer Jack Mitchell, has requested a 322 acre parcel be rezoned as Manufacturing Industrial (MI-1) conditional zoning district. According to the Three Oaks proposal 49.6 acres would be for the quarry pit.

The site of the proposed mine became a concern for neighboring property owners last year after they learned of test drilling happening. In December of 2021 NC Policy Watch published a story about the “mysterious drilling” which neighbors were concerned about. Mitchell said the drilling was part of the due diligence process to determine the best use for the property. As Mitchell was previously involved with a project related to “frac sand” mining, fears began to grow.

In March of this year, a letter from Mitchell went out to area residents announcing the proposal of an aggregate mine. Community members planned a panel discussion regarding the proposal which drew several hundred attendees. Three Oaks Quarry also hosted its own information session meant to address concerns about the mine in March.

“There are a lot of different questions, comments, and concerns, a lot of them are very valid, but I think there is also a lot of misinformation out there right now so the goal today is to hopefully add clarity,” Michell told The Yadkin Ripple during the info session.

“We want to be a good neighbor,” Mitchell said. He acknowledged that there would be an impact to the community in terms of noise during the construction and from the blasting but said the goal would be to minimize the impact to the community.

“How do we minimize that so that way people in in two or three or four years say, ‘I don’t even know those guys are there.’ That’s the goal,” he said.

At the community meeting held by quarry opponents in March, environmental concerns, property values, and increased traffic in the area were just a few of the things area residents said they were worried about. Perhaps one of the biggest concerns is the proximity of the proposed mine to West Yadkin Elementary School.

Among the panel which addressed questions during the meeting were Yadkin School Board members Tim Weatherman, Tim Parks and Sharon Yale. Also taking part in the panel was Yadkin County Schools Superintendent Todd Martin.

“It’s my job to advocate for the children of this school and the other schools here in this county, and it’s greatly concerning to me, personally, to know that a mine is going to be just behind this school and in such close proximity to 460 students and approximately 60 staff members who work here everyday,” Martin said at the March meeting. “I’m worried about the blasting, it’s been described that the blasting is going to be minimal, but that’s still a concern for me.”

“I just don’t think that’s what’s best for students, bottom line,” Martin concluded, to applause from those in attendance.

Community members as well as a lawyer retained by the group addressed the Planning Board in April and May reiterating numerous concerns about how the proposed mine could negatively affect the area. Multiple experts hired by Three Oaks Quarry addressed concerns and mitigation efforts that would be in place to limit the impact on the area.

Among mitigation efforts and conditions which Three Oaks has proposed if the rezoning is approved include construction of 12 feet high berms around the southern part of the site and six feet in height along the northern portion. Berms would be planted with indigenous species with expected maturity height of at least 15 feet. No blasting on weekends or major holidays and only in after school hours between 3:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. on days school is in session was another condition proposed by Three Oaks in an effort to quell concerns of how blasting could affect noise sensitive children on the nearby school property. Three Oaks also proposed a royalty payment system, subject to approval by the school system, that would donate 10 cents per ton of aggregate sold to West Yadkin Elementary School for the life of the quarry.

Despite the multiple mitigation efforts proposed by Three Oaks Quarry, community organizers continued to oppose the project.

A particular point of contention between lawyers representing each side of the argument is whether or not the parcel in question is considered spot zoning.

Daniel Johnson, a local attorney representing the community members opposed to the mine, addressed that issue during the May Planning Board meeting.

“We contend this is a classic example of spot zoning and I would further submit that this is illegal spot zoning,” Johnson said.

“The size of the tract has to be considered in the context of the surrounding area,” he continued. “Here you have a section of Yadkin County in the Hamptonville area that is uniformly zoned as a rural agriculture use. At the last meeting Mr. Terrell basically said this is not spot zoning, it’s not a small tract. You have to look at the size of the tract in context with the other surrounding land use.”

Johnson went on to say that zoning the property in question as Manufacturing went against the County’s own comprehensive land use plan.

Tom Terrell, attorney for Three Oaks Quarry, whom Johnson referred to, also spoke to the board. He reiterated his view that the property in question did not qualify as spot zoning as it was not involving a small tract of land.

“I can tell you with great confidence this is neither spot zoning or illegal,” said Terrell.

Terrell added that an area south of the proposed site has been designated as an area for economic growth and also noted that quarries typically are in rural areas.

Hamptonville community organizers opposed to the mine are hopeful the decision will be in their favor.

“We appreciate the Yadkin County Planning Board and we are trusting them to discern fact from the fiction and deception that is being presented by Jack Mitchell’s entourage,” said group member Amanda Felts.

“The Hamptonville community is completely on board with progress and growth. However, the proposed Three Oaks Quarry is the opposite of the type of growth that is needed in Hamptonville, or in Yadkin County for that matter. They are proposing an open pit mine in the center and heart of our community. Once a giant hole in the ground, always a giant hole in the ground. Maybe, if we are lucky, a handful of Yadkin County citizens (with really fantastic genes) might actually live long enough to see that gigantic hole filled up with water. If this is allowed, there will never be any other options for the 500+/- parcel of land that adjoins West Yadkin Elementary School. This is a forever decision facing the planning board and the county commissioners. An open-pit strip mine beside the school is not progress, nor is it growth.”

Three Oaks is hoping, of course, that the decision will be in their favor.

“As we approach the third meeting for our Zoning Request, we hope the planning board will review our project on its merits, recognize our willingness to listen, learn and address every reasonable concern, and ultimately, that they will give it a green light,” said a representative for Three Oaks Quarry. “We feel we have met the requirements within the county’s ordinance for rezoning. Requests by the county planning board and the public for additional information has been provided in addition to conditions above and beyond permit requirements. We hope the Board is comfortable with our responses and we are committed to the conditions we have outlined in our submittals and look forward to a positive outcome for our project this Monday and to advance our rezoning to the Board of Commissioners.”

Regardless of the decision by the Planning Board next week, the issue is expected to go before the Yadkin County Board of Commissioners for a public hearing during its July 18 meeting at 7 p.m. During the public hearing proponents and…



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