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Washington County planners OK quarry expansion

by Tom Sissom | February 26, 2021 at 7:38 a.m.
File photo/NWA Democrat-Gazette/STACY RYBURN The Washington County Courthouse is seen July 27 in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Washington County planners on Thursday approved plans to expand the Hunt-Rogers quarry operation east of Springdale.

The Planning Board voted unanimously to grant the permit for the proposed expansion and the preliminary development plan for the project after more than 90 minutes of discussion by the board and public comment.

The quarry expansion proposal has been pending before the Planning Board since the board's Jan. 23, 2020, meeting when the request for a permit was heard and tabled. The request was tabled again at the board's Nov. 5 meeting to allow time for the conditions of approval discussed to be formalized. Action on the permit was tabled again in December.

The Hunt-Rogers Quarry is on Parsons Road east of Springdale. The proposed expansion will add about 150 acres to the mining area and another 29 acres for stockpiling material from the quarry operation. The entire parcel is about 238.5 acres, according to information from the planning office.

According to information presented by the planning office, the quarry began operating in 2003, before the county adopted planning and zoning requirements in 2006. A permit for the operation was approved in 2012.

The Hunt-Rogers group has been seeking approval of plans to expand the quarry operation for some time. The initial request was tabled in January 2020, after neighbors objected to the plans, citing damage to their homes and declining property value if the expansion was approved.

The neighbors also raised concerns about noise, dust, heavy truck traffic on the narrow roads in the area and possible pollution of Beaver Lake. Those complaints were repeated Thursday.

Greg Gough, representing 76 neighbors who signed a petition opposing the expansion, said Thursday the quarry hasn't been a good neighbor and questioned the value of placing conditions on the permit when there are no enforcement provisions.

Gough was particularly critical of the company's continuous rock crushing operation, which another neighbor said is audible at his home a mile away from the quarry, and asked it be halted by 9 p.m. daily.

"If I had a rock band out there, pun intended, at 3 a.m. I know the cops would be out there shutting me down," Gough said "These guys are operating with impunity."

Gough asked the board to reconsider a phased approval approach discussed at earlier meetings, with three phases approved now giving the company 33.5 years of additional mining activity and subsequent approval required for any additional expansions.

The board didn't adopt the phased approval suggestion.

Andrew Effinger, assistant general counsel for Hunt-Rogers, repeated assurances given at previous meetings the group is willing to set aside an area as a preservation easement and to establishing a buffer of trees on ridges between the quarry and the residential area to the east. Effinger said the nature of the mining operation makes it difficult to say when mining may need to shift from one area to another so any rigid phasing isn't feasible.

Effinger also said the group is willing to have some kind of monitoring as part of the permit, and agreed to setting up an ombudsman program so there will be someone designated to hear and investigate complaints or concerns of neighbors.

The board had asked Nathan Crouch, county planning director, to work on the conditions for the permit that have been discussed. Those conditions include incorporating the agreements for the conservation easement and buffer area and a monitoring program using an ombudsman. Other conditions include providing neighbors with notice of planned blasting at the quarry, evaluating noise levels and implementing measures to reduce noise from the operation, adjusting the hours of operation to a schedule mutually agreeable to the quarry operation and the neighbors, and working with Benton and Washington counties on a "patch and repair" program for Parsons Road.

Those conditions were incorporated into the permit approval process at Thursday's meeting.

More News

County zoning

Land in unincorporated Washington County is zoned for agricultural or single-family residential use. All other uses require the property owner to obtain a permit through the planning process. The permits must be approved by the county’s planning board and Quorum Court.

Source: Staff report

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