Castle Hayne residents packed a small church in the Wrightsboro area Friday morning to voice their concerns about a proposal to rezone roughly 63 acres for a sand mine operation in Castle Hayne.
Whiteville-based Sledge Industries is seeking a conditional use rezoning from rural agricultural to heavy industrial for a proposed sand mine at 4117 Castle Hayne Road. The family-owned company’s Hilton Properties Limited Partnership division owns the 62 acres, which is part of roughly 4,100 acres the firm owns in Castle Hayne, according to county tax records – one of the largest undeveloped tracks left in northern New Hanover County.
Sledge officials said Friday there are no immediate plans for the remaining property, which has been mostly undisturbed for decades.
Family representatives with the company told a cramped room of nearly 20 residents at the community meeting that no prior survey work has been completed, although they are confident the site possesses an adequate sand bar large enough to accommodate mining.
That did not sit well with many of the residents who showed up who claimed Sledge officials were ill-prepared Friday to discuss specifics about the project and its impact to the area.
Steve Vosnock, who lives near the proposed project and helped notify other Castle Hayne residents about the pending operation’s request, said he was opposed to the rezoning, adding that he thought northern New Hanover County has become too industrial and such a mining operation could have negative impacts on the community.
Ben Andrea, a planner with New Hanover County’s department, said if a conditional use rezoning is granted, Sledge officials could also secure a special use permit concurrently during its rezoning request. The company, however, is not required to secure a mining permit prior to its request.
Andrea said while no application has been filed with the county, planning staff could recommend additional conditions be placed on the firm’s special use permit request such as limiting hours of operations and curbing the daily number of trucks allowed to access.
Jennifer Martin, a family member helping to oversee the rezoning and permitting of the site, said 47 acres of the 63-acre site would be used for sand mining activity. She added the family recently submitted applications for mining and stormwater permits with the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
As part of the permitting process, Martin said family officials are seeking a 10-year mining permit – meaning that if the property were to be rezoned by county commissioners, Sledge officials would have up to 10 years to construct and commence the operation.
Martin said family officials are seeking the rezoning first before surveying the site for sand. She said with construction increasing across the state, the need for sand is high.
And given the site’s access to a number of highways, including Interstate 140 and N.C. Highway 133, bringing a sand mine operation to the location was ideal.
“GE [whose campus is adjacent to the property] has signed a letter in support of this project, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has given us a letter saying the project will not impact the site’s waters and wetlands,” Martin said.
If the project rezoning and required permits were approved, a bonded miner would operate the site on behalf of the Sledge estate, Martin said.
Many residents Friday were also not pleased with the meeting’s venue, a small church in an industrial park in the Wrightsboro area – not Castle Hayne. Others said the time was inconvenient and the date – five days before Christmas – left the impression that the family was quickly trying to skirt the issue past residents.
“It was a poorly scheduled meeting,” said Jan Morgan, a resident of the Wooden Shoe subdivision that will roughly be a across the road from the proposed operation. “They need to reschedule the meeting, bring the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and address our questions and concerns, because this is going to impact us.”
Martin denied that family members were trying to rush their plans past community residents.
“We are simply complying with the county’s policy,” she said. “We’re not from the area, and we thought that this location would be accommodating.”
Martin said the family might consider hosting a second meeting, although it is not required, to discuss its plans with neighboring residents.
Andrea said if Sledge officials decide not to host a second meeting, residents would have the opportunity to voice their concerns with the New Hanover County Planning Board and county commissioners.
“Our policy doesn’t offer a lot of guidance as far as location and size of the [meeting] building,” Andrea said. “The meeting today is sufficient to meet the needs of their application.”
If Sledge officials file their application with the county planning officials by Jan. 8, the firm’s request could be on the planning board’s Feb. 6 agenda, Andrea said.