NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - The New Hanover County Planning Board voted for a continuance until its March meeting to decide if it will allow a company to develop a high-intensity mining operation in Castle Hayne, and attorneys for the company agreed to add specifics about a road that trucks will frequently travel next to homes.
During an allotted 30-minute time frame, neighbors, an attorney, a geology professor, and realtor spoke in opposition to the mine at Thursday night’s meeting of the planning board, which recommended the company take action to lessen the impact of truck traffic near houses with speed limits, road improvements, water trucks to stop dust, and a wall or plant barrier.
The family-owned company, Hilton Properties Limited Partnership, is working with the law firm Rountree Losee LLP to request that 63 acres of land in the 4100 block of Castle Hayne Road be rezoned from rural agricultural to conditional use heavy industrial.
Hilton Properties is also requesting a special use permit to develop a 28-acre high-intensity mining operation. Planning staff has also recommended approval of this permit.
Attorneys and community members on behalf of the company argued that the sand mine is necessary to provide sand for county construction and would not pollute groundwater.
The company submitted a similar rezoning application in 2014, but the planning board postponed the decision, citing a lack of information.
Susan Murphy said she is one of 12 families that live right beside Sledge Road concerned about the high volume of truck traffic.
“I’m feeling good about the continuance. That’s the least thing that could have been done for us," said Murphy. “I agree with a lot of the planning board members that the applicant should have come up with this plan to start with.”
Murphy added that if the board ultimately decides to recommend approval of both permits, she would like for extra steps to be taken regarding the road.
“I think paving the road is going to take care of most of my concerns as far as the road goes," said Murphy. “The fence and the vegetation is also going to help. I am glad that the board wants to see this concrete on paper.”
On Thursday, attorneys for the sand mine said it would be a dry mining operation that would prevent migration of contaminants and pose no risk to residents' groundwater.
Residents who spoke against the mine were mainly concerned about truck traffic and waste disrupting their day-to-day lives, as well as hurting property values.
Planning staff wrote that the mine has taken necessary steps to offset the possibility of groundwater contamination and that the mine will not reduce nearby property values but will support the local economy.
Staff recommends the mine operate from 8 a.m.-5 p.m., enforce a speed limit of 10 to 15 mph on roads near houses, improve the access road, and install a fence or plant buffer between where trucks would drive and homes.
Between 60 and 80 trucks per day will travel along Sledge Road to reach the mining property. The N.C. Department of Transportation says modifications must be made to the driveway, but specifics haven’t been shared.
In an October 2018 community information session about the proposed Castle Hayne sand mine, more than 100 people attended and the atmosphere turned testy.
People in the audience voiced concerns about environmental contamination, truck noise, road damage, harm to wildlife, a decline in property values, and groundwater pollution. Multiple people raised concerns about an adjacent General Electric site in Castle Hayne where cleanup is still underway after chemicals polluted groundwater in the 1960s and 1970s.
The New Hanover County Planning Board is composed of seven members who meet monthly, focusing mainly on land use planning, zoning, and growth management issues.