Residents near proposed Elko quarry raise objections

ELKO — Looking out the window of her Elko Road home, Kelly Green sees an orange sign. It announces a proposed rezoning that would allow a quarry to locate on the site just across the street from her home.

“It’s horrible. It’s terrible. It’s nothing in line with this area,” said Green, a defense contractor.

Green and several other residents plan to show up at Monday night’s Houston County Planning & Zoning Board meeting to speak against the rezoning request from Georgia Limerock Co. LLC.

The company is seeking to have 854 acres south of Perry rezoned as an M-2 general industrial district to support the development of a limestone quarry. The area currently is zoned as an R-AG residential/agricultural district.

The proposed quarry would be located within an area south of Ga. 224 and east of Elko Road, just off of Plant Road. The existing Cemex quarry is adjacent to and southeast of the site.

Ed Buehler, project manager for Georgia Limerock Co., has said the mining operation would provide raw limestone material for use as a road base, which is the material between the soil and road surface. Limestone would be mined and processed, then hauled off-site, according to company documents.

The proposed plant is expected to create 15 jobs and add an estimated $4.5 million in property and equipment investments to the tax digest. The combined tax revenue from real estate, personal property and sales could generate $65,000 per year, documents show.

If approved, site development is expected to begin this year, with the quarry opening in early 2010.

Homes are few in the mostly wooded area. But that doesn’t mean residents won’t be impacted, Green said.

“Just because we’re sparse doesn’t mean it’s not incredibly intrusive to have an M-2 zoning going in,” she said. “The noise and the emissions and the blasting, that’s not even in the same vicinity of what (the land has) been used for, and that’s agricultural purposes.”

Home values also will be impacted, she said.

According to the zoning application, the property currently is used for silviculture — the art and science of producing and tending to a forest. About 350 acres — just under half of the site — were mined from the 1920s to the mid-1970s, according to documents.

Future mining activities, which would be similar to the current mining operation at the Cemex quarry, would occur in phases over an extended period of time projected to exceed 40 years, according to Georgia Limerock Co. Occasional blasting may be necessary to break up soft limestone and would occur during business hours.

Several residents said they did not feel they were adequately informed of Monday night’s meeting. Although a sign had been posted on Plant Road, the one on Elko Road did not go up until Wednesday, after Green called the planning and zoning office, she said.

“I hate to go against (the quarry) for the business sake, but I hate to have the noise ... the shaking that will go along with the blasting,” said Roger Harrold, who lives on Elko Road and opposes the rezoning.

A 25-foot wooded buffer is planned to separate the mining area from adjacent property owned by Georgia Limerock Co., and a 200-foot wooded buffer is planned to separate the mining area from other properties, documents show.

That’s not enough, said Roy Gentry, an Elko Road resident and Harrold’s son-in-law.

“This is one of those cases where the property is going to be used for mining eventually,” he said, noting the natural resources that are abundant in the area. But “they need to leave an adequate buffer along Elko Road, so it does not become a visual distraction or a noise distraction.”

Gentry said he would like to see a 500-foot buffer.

Traffic and noise studies provided by Georgia Limerock Co. show little to no impact on the area.

Green disagrees.

The noise study was based on the location of the main quarry site, not the location of the blasts that will occur throughout, she said. In addition, the 200-foot wooded buffer was clear cut months ago, she said.

“M-2 (zoning) impacts everything around it,” Green said.

Buehler said the previous owner cut the trees for the wooded buffer, and he expects them to grow back. He said he did not have any other comments.

“The meetings will have to stand on their own,” he said.

To contact Jennifer Burk, call 256-9705.