The Butts County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Monday night to deny the rezoning and special use request for a proposed rock quarry in the northwest corner of the county. The votes were met by cheers from the audience.
As it was for the Butts County Planning and Zoning meeting on Feb. 11 when the first public hearing was held, the meeting Tuesday night at the Central Georgia EMC Annex was well attended by residents, many wearing red in opposition to the quarry.
Josh and Lauren Sprayberry of Tussahaw Reserves LLC and Keys Ferry Crossing LLC had proposed the quarry be established on 462 acres near Fincherville Road, Jack Maddox Bridge Road and Keys Ferry Road. The property is currently zoned agricultural-residential (AR) and would have to be changed to heavy industrial (M3) and also require a special use permit for the quarry road.
Residents in the area concerned about the safety of citizens and the environment established Butts County Stop the Rock Quarry in opposition. In addition, three landowners whose property borders the proposed quarry site have filed suit against the company owners, claiming the quarry would cause irreparable damage to their properties, and seeking an injunction aqainst the operation of the proposed quarry.
The applicant and opposition were allowed 60 minutes each to present their sides. BOC Chair Joe Brown relinquished the gavel to special counsel to the county Ben Vaughn to conduct the meeting.
Planning and Zoning Administrator Christy Lawson advised the commission that planning staff and commission recommended denial of the requests as they are not consistent with the county’s future land use map and comprehensive plan.
Doug Dillard, attorney for the Sprayberrys, opened the applicants’ portion of the hearing. Dillard stated with the exposed stone on the property, a rock quarry is the only appropriate use for the property and that it cannot be used in its current zoning. He said the county has not followed its future land use map and comprehensive plan in the past, that the Supreme Court has ruled that a denial based on public comment is capricious, and a loss of property value is not a reason to deny rezoning.
As at the P&Z hearing, they presented 10 expert witnesses, who reported:
♦ The soil at the location is not suited for residential construction due to the closeness of the granite to the surface, it would not be profitable to grow timber on the property, and the site as a quarry is superior to a site approved on the east side of the county for Vulcan in the early 2000’s.
♦ The site is not suited for residential, and builders won’t come to the county because of failing schools and the county unable to fund its pension adequately.
♦ There is no evidence the quarry would harm the economy of the county.
♦ Keys Ferry Road, which be the road the trucks going to and leaving the quarry would use, is in good shape and would be able to handle the heavy trucks (150 trips a day) with regular maintenance.
♦ The quarry would not adversely affect the water quality in the area, the type of blasting used would not impact neighbors or be a risk to Henry County’s Tussahaw Creek Dam, and the noise levels generated by the quarry would be similar to an airplane flying over.
Sprayberry closed out their time by stating that quarry aggregate is being used at building sites in the county and the tax dollars for that are going to other counties because there isn’t a quarry in Butts County.
Commissioner Russ Crumbley asked who will own the quarry, and Sprayberry replied he and his wife will own 100% and have contract staff to run the quarry.
Commissioner Ken Rivers asked County Manager Brad Johnson if the county’s pension fund was underfunded as one of the witnesses had stated. Johnson said it was not.
Brown said he took offense at one of the witnesses stating the school system is failing.
Don Stack, an attorney representing Butts County Stop the Rock Quarry, began the opposition’s time by stating that the alleged economic benefits the quarry might bring in would be negated by damage to the community. He added that both the U.S. Supreme Court and Georgia Supreme Court had ruled that it is the government’s job to protect the health and safety of the community.
David Marmins, an attorney representing the three landowners who have filed suit against the quarry, said the quarry will affect his clients and surrounding property owners’ health and their property’s value. Marmins went on to state that granting the requests would be the worst kind of spot zoning, and promised the BOC that the Georgia courts will uphold their decision if they voted to deny.
Only four residents were able to speak before time ran out.
Vicki Johnston said her family has owned property in the Worthville area since the 1800’s and that she has lived there all her life. She said the area is zoned AR for good reason and should remain that way for the families there.
Bill Berry said the quarry is the worst kind of spot zoning and that no one should buy property until they know what the zoning and use will be.
Steve Gafford said he and his wife have lived in Butts County since 1993, and he expressed concerns for air quality, traffic, and environmental damage if the quarry was allowed.
Deb Gilmore closed out the comments by stating that she was told by someone not involved with the issue that they would never defeat the rock quarry because “big money” is behind it. She compared it to the story of David and Goliath in the Bible, with the community being David and the quarry proponents being Goliath, and that the community had God on their side when they said they didn’t want the rock quarry.
Following the end of the public hearing, Keith Douglas made a motion to deny the rezoning. It was seconded by Crumbley and approved by a 5-0 vote, with the audience applauding. Crumbley then made a motion to deny the special use request. It was seconded by Rivers and approved by a 5-0 vote, with the audience standing and cheering.