York County went looking for a way to say no to quarries, mines and the like. Some residents would prefer they say never.
Residents poured into county hearings May 7 on proposed changes to how and where it allows quarries, mines and concrete plants. The new rules would make it harder to put those kinds of businesses in the county, yet many residents feel the rules don't go far enough.
"We're setting a dangerous precedent by not killing this as best we could," said Clover resident Bill Nogosky, who like dozens of other people is concerned about a proposed quarry in the Ridge Road area. "And potentially, you have the power to kill this."
Dave Horne agreed. He said restrictions to keep a quarry out of his area should reach well beyond Clover.
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"We need to make to it where there's no way they're going to be able find a spot in York County to put that," Horne said.
Lake Wylie resident Ellen Goff said she can't imagine residents elsewhere wanting a quarry near them, either.
"You all are our last line of defense," she told the County Council. "You are the ones who are protecting us. People don't want to live anywhere near where there's a blasting site."
It wasn't the county's intention to ban quarries or concrete plants. Effectively, though, the county could.
By limiting such sites to a certain type of industrial zoning district, requiring a vote on a special exception and putting in buffers and setbacks to neighboring properties, the county could make it almost impossible to find a site where those uses would be allowed.
Limiting such uses to a single industrial zoning alone nearly could do it.
"There's very little (industrial) property in the county, so I can say with pretty reasonable certainty that anyone wanting to do mining would have to come in for a rezoning," said Audra Miller, county growth management coordinator.
Mining is allowed in agricultural zoning now, but a new rule would eliminate it. Concrete plants aren't allowed on agricultural property, and residents don't want that to be changed.
"I've gotten an awful lot of emails about putting concrete plants in the middle of farmland," said Councilman Chad Williams. "That has already been taken out."
An earlier revision of the law mentioned the possibility of allowing such plants, with a special exception, on land zoned for agriculture. The current version of the law nixed the idea.
Still, residents in rural areas came out in force to make sure their point was clear.
"I'm also concerned about the precedent that it sets, if you allow things like concrete to pop up in an area that's been zoned (agricultural) for generations," said York resident Mark Cundari.
Cundari argued that "clearly it's not in character" to allow concrete plants in agricultural communities.
"You have family farms that sit out on the western half of this county, many of which are fairly large," he said.
Even allowing plants with a special exception for agricultural property is a problem, he said. Cundari said large farms could be split or sold when heirs may not want to keep them as-is. Neighboring farms then could get new neighbors they may not want.
"A concrete plant belongs in an industrial zoned area," Cundari said.
Without ongoing revisions to the county law, a concrete plant could pop up in an industrial-zoned district by right, meaning neighbors wouldn't have any public hearing or say in the matter.
"Whatever is going to come in, if it's a concrete plant, it needs to make sure it goes through a process of review," Councilwoman Christi Cox said. "Not just be automatically allowed."
Councilwoman Allison Love said the revisions "came about for a reason." A concrete plant at the corner of Riddle Mill Road and S.C. 557, she said, has caused issues and she was "shocked" to find out another site was planned within a quarter of a mile, along Bethel School Road.
Love is concerned about massive trucks on roads not meant to handle them, with constant deliveries. Those concerns ought to factor into whether a plant is allowed, she said.
"It doesn't mean that they're not allowed," Love said of the rule changes, "it just means that we've considered everything like that that could happen."
The new rules would give the council, and thus the public, more say.
"There is a need for York County to be able to say no when we need to," Love said.
Some residents say making the approval process difficult isn't enough.
Many residents spoke about the same issue three years ago, when a proposed Clover-area quarry along Ridge Road was up for rezoning. Residents there still fear the quarry will happen, even if the landowner has to bypass a council decision through a zoning board of appeals decision, which the new rules could allow.
"The only recourse for us at that time was to oppose a zoning request," said resident Robert Dulin. "We still don't want that rock quarry."
Various residents said quarries come up in "the clandestine sort of fashion," and that the "health and welfare" of residents should take priority. One person said a past quarry "shook the windows in my house" and another woman said a quarry "makes me want to leave, and I think other people feel that way."
Plus, residents say, quarries aren't needed.
"We're going to grow this area just fine without those sorts of businesses," said resident Mac Winget.
Nogosky said the drop in neighboring property values negate whatever economic gain a quarry might bring. Other businesses could have the opposite impact.
"Does the tax base need the extra money?" he asked. "I submit to you that it does not."
Proposed quarry neighbor Bill Davis said his part of Clover is primed for residential growth — until a quarry comes.
"It would put a screaming stop to any further developments in the way of residential development in that area," he said. "Nobody is going to want to buy property and build a house that's in the close vicinity of a concrete plant or a mining operation."
Resident George Knox urged council to do what's needed so residents don't have to turn out every few years to oppose a quarry.
"I want to find a way to shut this down permanently," Knox said. "We were here three years ago, with over 100 people. People hate this thing. Nobody wants it in our area. It's not needed."
York County residents aren't alone in questioning whether quarries fit their community.
Chester County residents are concerned about an ongoing plan to put a quarry on up to 28 of 240 acres in Edgemoor. Residents there are concerned about blasting, damage to the foundations of buildings and contaminated groundwater — all concerns brought up at the York County hearing.
If and where quarries, concrete plants and mines are allowed in the county, the new rules would limit hours of operation and other practices that sometimes concern residents.
Council chairman Britt Blackwell said some of the new rules in discussion could have lasting impacts, which is why his group needs to be reasonable in its direction.
"It really eliminates the chance for another cement — if it's 30 years down the road — another cement manufacturer wants to come here, there's really no place they can go," Blackwell said.
Councilman Michael Johnson said the concrete plant rules could represent a "total ban, basically."
"My goal is not to stop concrete plants in York County," he said. "That should not be our goal here."
Love said the rules aren't a ban, but a way to take a closer look at projects before they begin. Cox said the special exceptions needed for projects would be "an added layer of protection."
Johnson said he believes there are places where quarries and concrete plants don't fit, but that they shouldn't be barred from spots where they do.
"If you're zoned industrial — and that's where concrete plants belong, is in industrial — you should still be allowed to open one," he said.
The lengthy discussion Monday night is a sign of change. The issues arose due to a concern quarries, mines, concrete plants and the like could come without any approval or even a conversation by council.
Residents say the new rules are progress, and that no such project should come without council having some say.
"This is big enough," said York resident Dickie Harper.