A grassroots organization formed to oppose a sand mine operation proposed in the Castle Hayne area wants to take its concerns over what members say is the potential for pollution and declining property values to county commissioners, should a special use permit be supported by the New Hanover County Planning Board on Thursday.
The group, Concerned Citizens of New Hanover County being led by Will Grant, coordinator and resident of the River Bluffs neighborhood, is in opposition to the potential development of a sand mine operation in Castle Hayne.
Grant said Wednesday that the group had wished to give a presentation to the county planning panel Thursday to address its concerns over the sand mine operation but are unable to do so.
A county attorney said Wednesday that the group would, however, be able to present their concerns over the proposal later, when it would go before county commissioners.
"If the application moves forward to the [board of county commissioners] the concerned citizens group or counsel on their behalf will have the opportunity to present their opposition testimony," Sharon Huffman, deputy county attorney, said in an email Wednesday.
On Thursday, the county planning board is slated to hear more from the applicant of the proposal, who is seeking a special use permit to develop a high-intensity sand mining operation in the Castle Hayne area.
Stephen Coggins, a partner with the Rountree Losee law firm, who is representing the applicant and property owner, Hilton Properties Limited Partnership, in the special use permit request, was not able to be reached Wednesday for comment on the resident group's concerns.
The planning board’s vote on the special use permit was postponed until the Thursday meeting in order for the applicant to meet with residents over improvements that could be made to Sledge Road, which could carry trucks to and from the potential mining operation on the Castle Hayne property.
The planning board recommended approval in January of the applicant's request to rezone 63 acres in the 4100 block of Castle Hayne Road from rural agricultural to heavy industrial, where the sand mine is being proposed. The vote on the special use permit was continued.
A public hearing that has been opened Thursday, however, is for the applicant and residents near Sledge Road, or their counsel, to address the issue of access to the proposed mine, Huffman said. Other matters have been closed for comment, she said.
"Obviously, prior testimony and evidence is to be considered by [planning board] members when they are called to consider a motion to approve or deny the special use permit,” she added.
Sledge Road is a private gravel road that runs about 2 miles from the proposed mining site to Castle Hayne Road with about a half mile of the road adjacent to homes in the Wooden Shoe neighborhood, according to agenda documents
Area residents have raised concerns about the potential noise and dust generated by the estimated 60 to 80 truckloads a day that could be traveling to and from the potential mine operation.
The planning board previously suggested that the applicant meet with residents adjacent to the road and requested that the applicant provide specific details regarding the improvements proposed for that portion of Sledge Road, according to the agenda.
That meeting took place Feb. 15 with about 12 residents attending, the agenda states. Residents at the meeting suggested modifications for the road, including increasing the proposed fence height and constructing a paved road to better handle truck traffic.
Grant said that some residents of Wooden Shoe, who attended that meeting, are also members of the group.
The applicant, as a result of the meeting, has made revisions to its site plan.
Ahead of the March meeting, Coggins
previously said, the applicant agreed to pave the dirt road that goes by residences and add fencing and a vegetative buffer.
“We think that the project now is much more palatable to all concerned," Coggins said previously.
The members of the concerned residents group, however, still have issues over the noise impacts and air pollution from the trucks, as well as the potential for the operation to decrease area property values, Grant said.
Grant said the group has gathered the support of more than 200 residents of the Castle Hayne communities of Wooden Shoe, Indian Corn Trail, Trail Oaks Drive and River Bluffs.
The group had put together a presentation about its opposition and concerns that was delivered to planning board staff Feb. 27, Grant said, but found out they would not be able to present it.
"We will certainly be continuing to pursue this matter with the county commissioners if it is approved Thursday night by the planning board," Grant said in an email. "We are currently in discussions with a local law firm concerning legal representation."
If the special use permit receives the board approval, Huffman said, it's possible that the matter could appear before the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners at its April 1 meeting.
The planning board will meet at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Andre’ Mallette Training Center at the New Hanover County Government Center, 230 Government Center Drive.