Council Backs Anti Quarry Group

Vote Rattles Mining Company

WINNSBORO – After more than an hour in executive session Monday night, a Fairfield County Council that was three-sevenths shy of a full load voted to lawyer-up and assist Rockton Thruway residents who have for nearly a year been fighting a mining company that is eyeballing more than 900 acres for a granite quarry in their back yards.

The late addition of the item to Monday night’s agenda captured the attention of Winnsboro Crushed Stone, LLC, which sent Charlotte attorney Jay McKeown to speak on its behalf during the meeting’s first public comment session.

“They were surprised to see that on the agenda tonight,” McKeown told Council. “The bottom line, and most simply, is there is a process in place. S.C. DHEC (the Department of Health and Environmental Control) has a process in place for mine applications. That process is in progress. There have been a number of public hearings and comment with regard to that process and I ask the Council to let that process go forward.”

McKeown told Council that the property in question, 405 acres of which will be left as undisturbed buffer, was zoned as Conditional Use in 2012.

“As I understand it, nothing has changed in the zoning laws or the ordinances that would affect this certificate that was issued by a County employee,” McKeown said. “The question I have to keep asking myself, and hopefully, Chairman, this Council may be asking this question, is why are you voting on it tonight?”

A similar venture, Fairview Mine in Blair, was issued a permit in 2009, McKeown pointed out, without the County becoming involved at all. A vote against Winnsboro Crushed Stone, McKeown added, was bad for business.

“If a business can’t rely on the County in upholding ordinances and zoning certificates, what type of affect will that have on businesses in the future?” McKeown asked. “A ‘No’ vote will have a negative impact on future investment and future industry in this county.

“This is a S.C. DHEC decision,” McKeown added. “And I think many of the members of Council understand that the County at this point, after giving permission, has nothing further to do with regards to this permit.”

While Council did not vote Monday night to ban the operation of the mine, they did vote to retain an attorney to help ensure that residents of Rockton Thruway had their concerns addressed. Many of those concerns were aired out at a Nov. 20 DHEC public hearing, held in the Fairfield Central High School auditorium. Those concerns included the impact of blasting at the mine on nearby homes, air quality, truck traffic and, predominantly, water usage.

“Because the Council has so many questions regarding the impact of the wells, the impact of truck safety, the hours of operation and meeting all of the standards and federal requirements,” Councilwoman Mary Lynn Kinley (District 6) said in her motion Monday night, “the Council does hereby direct the County Administrator to retain legal representation to defend the interests of Fairfield County in regards to the pending mining application of Winnsboro Crushed Stone.”

All four remaining Council members – Kinley, Carolyn Robinson (District 2), Chairman David Ferguson (District 5) and Vice Chairman Dwayne Perry (District 1), who also offered the second – voted in favor. Councilman Mikel Trapp (District 3) was present at the outset of the meeting, but did not return with Council after the executive session. Councilmen David Brown (District 7) and Kamau Marcharia (District 4) were not present Monday night.

After the meeting, Milton Pope, County Administrator, said the legal counsel will “look at all of these outstanding concerns that a lot of these citizens have raised, to look into those items along with the information at DHEC to provide public comment before the close of the public comment period on Dec. 4.”

Lisa Brandenburg, a Rockton Thruway resident that has helped lead the charge in opposition to the quarry, said after the meeting that her camp was “elated” at Council’s decision.

“But we are prepared to move forward with all initiatives,” she added.

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