Will Beulah see a quarry?

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PHOTO BY HANNAH LESTER / OPELIKA OBSERVER

By Hannah Lester
HLester@opelikaobserver.com

Will there be a quarry in Beulah? The answer is still up in the air.

Over the last several weeks, the newly-formed Lee County Planning Commission has been developing Lee County Zoning Regulations — especially for Beat 13.

The quarry would be located in Beat 13 — specifically on West Point Parkway, east of Lee County Road 177.

Creekwood Resources, LLC, is hoping to establish the quarry in Beulah after failed efforts to establish one in Opelika in 2020.

The planning commission was granted authority to establish regulations in Beat 13 after a special-called election was held on May 18. Citizens voted for the planning commission’s authority by a vote of 431 ‘yes’ to 220 ‘no’.

Following the vote, the planning commission finalized its first official draft of regulations, which was then sent before the county commission during the Monday night Lee County Commission meeting.

The county commission approved the regulations.

Zoning Regulations

The zoning regulations were developed with use of the Lee County Master Plan October 2010, as specified in the regulations, which are available online in the county commission’s agenda for May 24 (http://www.leeco.us/government/county_commission/agenda.php).

The planning commission divided the areas of Lee County that now fall under zoning regulation into two districts — RC (Rural Center District) and RU (Rural Use District).

The RC district is a rural area that has “clusters of commercial activity and higher intensity development that serve the surrounding rural community in centralized locations.”

The RU district is rural areas made up of homes and farms but also other miscellaneous uses, such as, “scattered institutional uses, churches and small scale businesses.”

PHOTO BY HANNAH LESTER / OPELIKA OBSERVER

Zoning districts have to follow a set of guidelines laid out in the plan, which includes the following:

– Strengthen the rural character of the community

– Conserve natural features, such as streams, lakes, woodlands, wildlife habitats, etc. to the furthest extent

– Maintain farm and timber lands as prominent land uses

– Encourage residential development that reinforces rural character

– Focus commercial development within carefully planned corridors and nodes

– Carefully and sensitively locate heavy industrial uses within special districts that minimize adverse impacts on adjacent properties and respect the rural residential character of the community.

The following uses are allowed in RC:

– Agricultural and Forestry Use

– Rural Residential Uses

– General Institutional Uses

– Light Commercial Uses

– General Commercial Uses

– Temporary Use for Seasonal Sales  

The following uses are allowed in RU:

– Agricultural and Forestry Uses

– Rural Residential Uses

– General Institutional Uses

– Temporary Use for Seasonal Sales

Other uses that don’t fit the above could be defined as special exception uses and be granted approval by the planning commission.

ADEM

The other avenue that would prevent the quarry is the Alabama Department of Environmental Management Agency.

ADEM held a public hearing last week to hear concerns related to water and air that could be caused by the quarry.

However, ADEM told those in attendance that before the hearing there was no reasonable reason for ADEM not to approve Creekwood’s permits.

The aspects of the quarry that involve ADEM’s air division is the crushing, screening and conveying of granite, said ADEM’s Air Division Representative Pam Hunt.

Hunt said that the dust emission caused at the quarry would be limited by wet suppression systems.

“The wet suppression systems that have been proposed for installation at this facility would be capable of meeting or exceeding all federal and state requirements found under these regulations,” she said. “Based upon our review of the permit application for this facility, the department has proposed the issuance of the air permit developed in accordance with applicable state and federal requirements.”

Discharges from the mine to Halawakee Creek and its unnamed tributary were considered by ADEM’s water division, said ADEM’s Water Division Representative Ange Boatwright.

“Halawakee Creek and the unnamed tributary to Halawakee Creek are classified as being  suitable for fish and wildlife,” Boatwright said. “The discharges to Halawakee Creek occur upstream of Lake Harding, which is classified as being suitable for public water supply. Based upon review of the NPDES permit issuance application for this facility, the department has proposed to issue the NPDES permit which was developed in accordance with applicable state and federal requirements, which are designed to be protective of water quality.”

Both representatives reminded those making comment that any other concerns not related to air or water, such as noise or traffic, would not be considered by ADEM.

Some of the concerns proposed by residents related to water and air included the harmful nature of carcinogens; the harmful, unknown, long-term effects of quarries; breathing problems for those with asthma, COPD or Down’s Syndrome; whether the water that would be reaching Lake Harding would be treated or filtered; whether there were enough air pollution devices for the 27 operators and how the water suppression systems will work when there are droughts.

Written content was also encouraged and ADEM officials said that written comment would not be treated any differently than those who showed up in person. The deadline for written comment is today May 27.

“The county commission … should submit a written public comment to ADEM,” said Probate Judge Bill English at the Monday night County Commission meeting.

English told the commission he prepared five pages of written comment that could be submitted from the commission as a whole, which the commission voted to submit.

Comments can be submitted to the following two contacts:

Ronald W. Gore, Chief

ADEM-Air Division

1400 Coliseum Blvd.

[Mailing address: PO Box 301463; Zip 36130-1463]

Montgomery, Alabama 36110-2400

(334) 271-7861

airmail@adem.alabama.gov

or

Jeffery W. Kitchens, Chief

ADEM-Water Division

1400 Coliseum Blvd.

[Mailing address: PO Box 301463; Zip 36130-1463]

Montgomery, Alabama 36110-2400

(334) 271-7823

water-permits@adem.alabama.gov

ADEM will post its final decisions and responses to citizen concerns on its website (www.app.adem.alabama.gov/eFile/).

So, it is still undecided whether there will be a quarry in Beulah. The outcome may reside in ADEM or Lee County’s zoning regulations.

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