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Commissioners send sand mining project to state for approval

At its July 17 meeting, the Gadsden County Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously to send a rezoning request by C.W. Roberts Contracting Inc. to the state for review and approval.

The company asked for 145 acres it owns at 9914 Pat Thomas Parkway in Quincy to be re-zoned from Agriculture 3 to Conservation and Mining so the company could do sand mining on the property.

Bob Flowers. C.W. Roberts president, said the mining would be a long-term project and would last for as many as 15 to 20 years. Flowers said the project should generate as many as a dozen new jobs and that the company always tries to hire locally.

The project faced considerable public opposition at the meeting, but the commissioners forwarded the request to the state just the same. The opposition came from the Allen family – Mary Helena, Ed and Amy Allen. The family members urged the commissioners to vote against using this parcel for sand mining.

Mary Helena Allen told commissioners “sand mining strips nature’s filter and allows direct run-off and pollution.” She said approving this project would be “like a train leaving the station that we’ll all have a very difficult time stopping.”

Ed Allen, representing Friends of Lake Talquin, said “the number-one goal of the county’s Comprehensive Plan is to protect the property rights of its citizens.”

“With five sand pits already out there,” he continued, “we already have too many as it is. We do not need another one. It is a known fact that sand pits destroy the aquifer.”

Amy Allen added she “grew up at Lake Talquin and wants to keep the area safe for her children and grandchildren.”

Commissioner Sherrie Taylor, whose district the project is in, said there was a meeting hosted at a local restaurant at Lake Talquin for residents of that area to ask the company about this project. Taylor said the residents asked many questions, and the company seemed to respond to all their concerns, including installing a vegetative buffer so the mining operations could not be seen from the highway.

Taylor said she is always concerned about the environmental impact of any project but noted in the company’s defense “there hasn’t ever been one study which showed that the company’s production activities have ever harmed the area’s aquifer.”

Commissioner Gene Morgan added the C.W. Roberts company seems to understand the sensitive issues brought on by its operations; has always been a responsible business partner with the county; and has worked well with the public to respond to all its concerns.

“Based on this site, I have not seen any negative impact on the aquifer or lake,” Morgan said. “I just see an organization that tries to be a good corporate partner with the county – and always responds to the county if they can help within their realm.”

Allara Gutcher, the county’s land use consultant, explained the project will now be sent to the state agencies for expedited review, which gives the agencies 30 days to respond. Following any suggested modifications by the state, the project would then come back before the county commission for adoption.

By Randall Lieberman