Residents of The Sanctuary, a community off Oak Level Road in South Bryan, got a temporary reprieve when county commissioners tabled a conditional-use request at their monthly meeting Tuesday that would have put a borrow pit near their homes.
Rayonier Atlantic Timber Co. proposed a 22-acre, 30-foot-deep borrow pit near Oak Level and Carver School roads with the dirt removed to help in area construction projects, including the upcoming widening of Highway 144.
That construction project didn’t sit well with several residents of The Sanctuary, who voiced concerns at a public hearing that ranged from safety to noise to improper notification of area residents of the upcoming public hearing.
Rayonier Senior Resource Land Manager Ed Carter said the borrow pit would be heavily buffered, considerably more in some areas than county ordinances require.
“We’ve always tried to contribute to the counties we are in. Hopefully, we’ll be able to fill the future needs for fill dirt,” Carter said. “We will heavily buffer the borrow pit with a good visual buffer. Plus we will access the borrow pit from the rear. We have spent a lot of time planning this. This will be a lake amenity when we’re done.”
That planning came under intense scrutiny from some residents of The Sanctuary.
“My concern is the size of the borrow pit and how close it is to our homes. I don’t think the issues have been adequately addressed,” said nearby resident Sean C. Bell. “It is within 500 feet of homes. It is near roads. It is a busy area. My primary concern is it (being) so close to roads and homes and how it could affect nearby property values.”
The Sanctuary resident Dave Southerland agreed.
“I believe in planned progress. I’m not opposed to the project. I just don’t have enough information,” he said.
Others question focused on how long the digging would go on, whether the contractors would work on weekends and how many truckloads of dirt would leave the site daily.
Carter said it was difficult to answer.
“It depends on the demand for dirt. It’s hard to pinpoint how many daily trips trucks would make. I don’t see work going on the weekends but I can’t guarantee it,” he said.
The senior resource land manager did say the permit requested from the state would expire in 2020.
Third District Commissioner Steve Myers asked whether the trucks could access the property from Highway 144, only to be told by Carter that most of the land being suggested by the commissioner was wetlands. Myers also questioned how much water would fill the pit and the level of the water relative to the grade of nearby property.
At the end of a lengthy discussion, Myers made a motion to table the issue until the January commissioners’ meeting to allow Rayonier representatives to gather additional information. Commissioner Noah Covington seconded the motion, and it was approved by the rest of the commissioners, except Rick Gardner, who cast the lone dissenting vote.
Other issues addressed at the meeting include:
• Approving a rezoning request from Sarah Williams to allow a bed and breakfast at 1149 Wildwood Church Road.
• Approving a rezoning request from Robert and Jeraldine Graff to allow them to keep horses on their property at Highway 119 and Sims Road.
• Preliminary plat approval for East Buckhead, Phase 5.
• Approval of changes to the county water and sewer ordinance that will allow rate changes to be approved via resolution by county commissioners rather than by ordinance.
• Approval of the 2016 county budget.