Camden County Commission met Thursday amidst a heavy crowd to determine a rezoning for a proposed expansion of the Magruder Limestone quarry in the Sunrise Beach area.
With the request in mind to change zoning from A-R (agriculture-residential) to I-1 (industrial), residents piled on to express opposition to the request. After over an hour of testimony from residents, commissioners Greg Hasty and Don Williams voted to deny the request in the absence of commissioner Beverly Thomas.
This is the second time the county has denied a rezoning request for this 30-acre property at Highway 5 and Tree Lane made in the attempt to expand the quarry horizontally. An application by Magruder for general commercial zoning with a conditional use permit a few years ago was also denied.
The stated intent by Magruder representatives at past hearings was to create a flat 60-acre tract — the expansion site plus the existing adjacent quarry — that could still be developed as a commercial property 30 years in the future when they anticipated the site would be leveled off.
Magruder representatives have repeatedly stated now and in the past that without the horizontal expansion they would blast and mine deeper at its current site in the Village of Sunrise Beach. The land in question in this case is adjacent to the village under county jurisdiction.
The Camden County Planning Commission had reviewed the most recent application for industrial zoning and recommended approval, though the Sunrise Beach Board of Trustees officially asked the county to deny the quarry for public health concerns.
County Road Administrator Lee Schuman, P.E., had also recommended approval of the rezoning with an aim to keeping county road material costs down. Camden County Road & Bridge is one of Magruder’s biggest customers for this particular location.
To open the discussion at the county commission hearing February 22, Magruder consultant Matt Marschke, P.E., held a presentation claiming multiple benefits of the zoning change. This included essential additions to area infrastructure and the necessity of growth in the local economy. He claimed that normal concerns including flying rock, vibration and dust would not be an issue. He closed by saying that they wanted to leave the future generations with an operating plot of land instead of an empty hole.
Keith Henderson, who represented blasting operations at the quarry, also presented to explain how the blasts would not be a major problem for nearby residents. He explained how each blasting professional would be licensed with over 1,000 hours of training. He also claimed that blasting sound limits would be set to 133db, no stronger than a 27 m.p.h. wind.
After these presentations were complete, over a dozen residents came forward to express concerns about the change. Nearby subdivision representative Ron Yarbrough opened opposition. He said that zoning plans are put in place to preserve the character of a community and that this change would ruin the peaceful nature of their quiet cove neighborhood. Yarbrough continued with concerns on housing values in the future and the issues this would present with market value in the future.
Other citizens presented issues such as housework concerns that may be undone, dust created in the air that may affect children playing outside, wildlife reduction and general noise and vibrations from the blasts. Many of these community members made strong denials of claims that blasts were not harmful, and rather claimed that they were indeed a major issue to the surrounding housing areas.
Sunrise Beach Village Attorney Zane Williams closed opposition remarks by saying that the city strongly opposed the move. He said that the zone in question would be considered in the master plan for the city as future space for commercial districts. This would include space for restaurants, shops and office space.
“Making an industrial zone in a planned business area is about the worst planning decision you could make,” Williams said in his remarks.
After opposition remarks were concluded, Commissioner Williams said that he had put much thought into this issue and claimed that he personally is on the side of pro business decisions. However, he wanted to make clear how important the voice of the people was and how important of a resource the lake is to all.
“Protecting you and your quality of life is my job,” Don Williams said.
Hasty added that the idea of commercial development in this area may be the key to helping Sunrise Beach continue to grow. He said that the idea of having a rock quarry in the middle of prime highway development areas “doesn't make sense.” He also claimed that there were multiple hilly areas nearby that might serve as a better spot for expansion.
“There is nothing about this that I see as good for the long term development of Sunrise Beach,“ Hasty said in his closing remarks before the vote to deny.
Past reporting by Lake Sun editorial staff member Amy Wilson contributed to this story.