A sand mine off U.S. 421 is looking to expand its footprint onto more than 140 acres of land zoned for heavy industrial development.
Situated just south of the border between New Hanover and Pender counties, 421 Sand Mine LLC has operated for more than 20 years, supplying sand to construction companies and local municipalities for beach renourishment and other uses. Now, the company is looking to expand onto an adjacent 144-acre tract.
But first, it will need to secure a special use permit from New Hanover County leaders. High-intensity mines and quarries are only permitted on sites zoned for industrial development, and they require an intensive industry special use permit issued by the county.
On Thursday, the New Hanover County Planning Board held a preliminary forum to review and discuss the sand mine’s proposed expansion. The special use permit will face a vote from New Hanover County’s Board of Commissioners at its March 18 meeting, following a quasi-judicial hearing.
Attorney Joseph Taylor Jr. with Murchison, Taylor & Gibson PLLC represented the sand mine’s owners during Thursday’s meeting. The sand mine is an “extremely important facility” for New Hanover County and all of Southeastern North Carolina, Taylor said.
The proposed mine will be a “wash plant” facility, which means the sand will be dredged up instead of dug, Taylor said. After dredging the sand, it’s then separated into various grades needed for specific uses.
“There are users in Southeastern North Carolina that can’t just use sand,” Taylor said, “they have to have a particular grade of sand.”
The mine supplies local municipalities across the Cape Fear region with sand that’s needed for beach renourishment. They supply New Hanover County with sand to stabilize the county-owned landfill and provide graded sand to local concrete and construction companies, Taylor said.
“The problem we have is that we are about to run out of sand,” Taylor said. “It will be a tremendous problem for the businesses in New Hanover County and all of Southeastern North Carolina both Pender and Brunswick.”
That’s why the company is looking to expand onto the undeveloped, wooded tract that’s north of the existing mine. The site, which is bordered by wetlands, will be accessed by an existing internal road with no direct access to U.S. 421, Robert Farrell, a development review supervisor with New Hanover County told the planning board on Thursday.
The sand mine's owners have agreed to add additional buffers into their plans to make space for water lines that will run alongside the site. The buffers have been added as conditions to the special use permit, Taylor said.
The site is expected to generate around 44 vehicle trips hauling sand during peak morning hours and 7 trips during peak afternoon hours, according to the permit’s supporting documents.
When New Hanover County’s Board of Commissioners considers the permit in March, the board will weigh whether the project meets the four criteria required for a special use permit approval.
The proposed use cannot “materially endanger” public health or safety, must meet all required conditions of the county’s Unified Development Ordinance, cannot “substantially injure the value of adjoining or abutting property,” and the location and character of the use must be “in harmony with the area” and conform with the county’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan.