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Wednesday, 16 August 2006 00:00

Community appeals to Jackson commissioners

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By Sarah Kucharski • Staff Writer

Members of a grassroots citizens group rallying against a proposal to build a rock quarry in the Tuckasegee community of Jackson County will appear before county commissioners Thursday, Aug. 17, to plead their case further.

The United Neighbors of Tuckasegee plan to present a resolution to commissioners calling for the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources not to issue a permit to Carolina Crushed Boulder and Stone. The company has applied for a permit to operate a rock quarry on a 57-acre tract near the intersection of N.C. 107 and N.C. 281, and less than 100 feet away from neighboring residential property.

Jackson County already has an ordinance in place that will not allow the industry to be located in the community. The ordinance, which county commissioners unanimously adopted in May 2002, requires a 1,320-liner-foot setback for all industries covered under the ordinance — asphalt plants, junkyards, heavy industry and mining operations.

“The plan for the rock quarry at the site that has been selected will not meet the requirements of the ordinance,” said county planner Linda Cable in July, after learning of the proposed quarry.

The state could issue an operations permit regardless of the county ordinance; however, the ordinance would override the permit, making it useless. As written the local ordinance does not allow for any variances, meaning that county officials have little choice but to enforce it.

“The only other option that we have is we technically could revise the ordinance,” said County Commissioner Chairman Brian McMahan. “That is an option, but I don’t foresee that happening.”

McMahan traditionally has been a strong proponent of property rights. When commissioners faced a heated community battle over whether a shooting range should be allowed to locate in the Tilley Creek area, just off N.C. 107 past Western Carolina University, McMahan did not support a moratorium that would have halted construction of any new ranges, nor did he support authoring an ordinance to govern shooting ranges.

In this scenario, McMahan said it was clear that such industrial development did not match the character of the community that would be affected.

“In this particular instance it’s just not a good fit,” he said.

There has been a tremendous outpouring of community interest regarding the proposed rock quarry, as evidenced in part by a community meeting held July 29 at which approximately 150 audience members were in attendance. More than 500 have signed a petition opposing the quarry.

This interest prompted state officials to call for a public hearing regarding the permit well before the close of the written comment period. The hearing has been scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 22, in Courtroom 2 of the Jackson County Justice and Administration Center.

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