Site of proposed quarry off Windmill and Stutman Roads (Source: Google Maps)
LEXINGTON COUNTY, SC (WIS) -
With recent issues like spending city money to build a ballpark or limiting a mayor's power, public hearings at meetings in the Midlands have gotten pretty heated recently. But the public hearing at the Lexington County Council meeting Tuesday regarding changes to the mining ordinance was a love fest.
About 200 people packed the council chambers for the public hearing, and about 100 people signed up to speak. Combining the already cramped space due to the mass of humanity and an unfortunately malfunctioning air conditioning unit could have led to an angry mob.
Oh, and the issue the public hearing was called to discuss was voted on for a second reading before the public got its chance to speak. The diplomatic process wasn't ignored. It still needs a third reading and vote.
At issue is the county's changes to its zoning ordinance to place more restrictions on mine operators. The changes came after Vulcan Materials Company, the mining company, notified the county it was interested in purchasing about 300 acres off Windmill and Stutman roads in Leesville for an open-pit granite mine.
"This zoning amendment we just voted on is one of the strictest in the country," Council Chairman Johnny Jeffcoat told the hearing attendees. "We heard your voices. We're doing what we can to help you."
"Nobody wants a quarry in their back yard," he said of his colleagues oncouncil.
"This is how we know what you're thinking," said Jeffcoat. "It means a lot to us that you're here."
In 1996, Lexington County leaders created their own rules governing mining, feeling that a 1974 state mining act didn't go far enough. Quarries exist on Corley Mill Road, but they were operating before the zoning laws were established.
"I thought it was a good idea at the time because it was economic development," said Council member Frank Townsend, who represents the district where the mine would be built. "But after hearing from the people, I've changed my mind."
All of the people who spoke at the hearing opposed the quarry and commended the council for its efforts to change the zoning law.
"Thank you so much for protecting our community," said one citizen.
"In Lexington County, I think we have wise, caring leadership," said a Batesburg resident. "I appreciate y'all's support on this."
Several of the people who spoke at the hearing say their ancestors lived on their land for decades and some are buried there.
"Mine is just a family farm that I use for hayin' and for animals," one of the citizens said. Another man said he wanted to leave some of his 33 acres to his grandson to build a house there.
"Some of our neighbors have lived on that land and its in their families for generations," said another.
They showed up wearing T-shirts and stickers that read Stop the Quarry. They offered a petition of signatures of people opposed to the quarry.
In a hearing that was expected to last several hours, everyone said what they wanted to say in a little more than an hour. Instead of taking the podium, many who signed up to speak simply said "I concur" when their names were called.
DHEC, not the county, has the final say on approving the permits.
"It doesn't mean they're not coming," said Council member Tod Cullum. "It means if they do, they're going to be a good neighbor."
Council expects to make a final vote in mid-June.
WIS contacted Vulcan Materials and is awaiting a response from the company.