HAMPSTEAD — Responding to sturdy opposition to a proposed sand mine from close by residents and Topsail faculty dad and mom, county planners have tabled a gathering to make a proper suggestion to commissioners.
The Planning Board assembly, now set for April 7, has additionally been moved from the county’s foremost constructing in Burgaw to the Hampstead Annex auditorium, the place a a lot bigger crowd will be capable of attend.
READ MORE: After land taken for bypass, developer appears to be like to rezone over 500 acres for sand mine behind Topsail Excessive
Nationwide developer Jamestown Properties is trying to rezone 561 acres of property, between the three Topsail faculties in north Hampstead and the Fortress Bay neighborhood to the west, for a sand mining operation.
The rezoning request comes amid issues raised by Fortress Bay residents and faculty dad and mom at a required neighborhood info assembly on the Hampstead Library final Tuesday. Throughout a crowded and sometimes tense assembly, they demanded solutions on how the mine would possibly worsen air and noise air pollution, enhance visitors congestion on Freeway 17, pollute the world’s water provide, lower residence values within the surrounding areas, and affect Topsail college students’ well being and high quality of training.
On the assembly, there was additionally some confusion as as to whether Jamestown’s proposed shopping center would even be attainable, because the land for the venture has been put aside for a posh highway interchange the place the longer term Hampstead Bypass will merge with Freeway 17.
Criticism of the proposed sand mine has grown rapidly after petitions first started gaining signatures final week.
Fortress Bay residents Peter Rawitsch and his spouse, Stacy Kitt, have led the hassle, circulating two separate petitions they plan to current to county commissioners after a listening to on the matter is scheduled, which requires a suggestion from the Planning Board.
By Friday afternoon, the petitions had collected simply over 300 signatures from Fortress Bay residents and 989 signatures from an on-line petition aimed in direction of faculty dad and mom and the Hampstead neighborhood at massive, in response to Rawitsch.
Rawitsch estimated over 150 folks got here to the assembly, together with Topsail faculty dad and mom, lecturers, householders, and environmentalists. Due to the county’s fireplace code limitations, the assembly was break up into three completely different periods to accommodate the larger-than-planned crowd.
Russell Weil, who helps handle the venture for Jamestown by his engineering agency Pintail Companions, made displays of the venture and took solutions from these in attendance. He knowledgeable them that Jamestown was proposing the sand mine solely after plans for an enormous residential subdivision fell by when the state took a portion of the land for the deliberate Hampstead Bypass. The $340-million freeway will minimize by the center of the property earlier than merging with Freeway 17 north of Topsail Center Faculty.
Some additionally raised issues about how the mining operation might affect the Fortress Hayne Aquifer supplying Fortress Bay with its ingesting water. The water comes from wells operated by Aqua Carolina.
Joel Mingus, an engineer with the corporate, requested Weil what would stop Jamestown from digging any deeper than the proposed 10 to 20 toes. In accordance with Weil, the soils beneath that depth will not be conducive to additional digging; he additionally informed Mingus that, to his information, there aren’t any plans to make use of a groundwater decreasing system — an operation that pumps water out of the bottom to dry the sand earlier than it’s hauled off the location. He stated they’re as an alternative anticipating to filter the sand on the floor.
In accordance with the North Carolina Division of Environmental High quality, Jamestown has not but submitted any allow functions to the state company. Weil stated this will likely be finished if the rezoning request goes by.
One other attendee requested Weil how the sand mine wouldn’t trigger well being points like silicosis, a lung illness attributable to inhaling sand mud and much like the ‘black lung’ illness widespread amongst coal miners.
“How is that this any completely different from strip mining?” he requested.
“We will likely be digging grime on the property, sure sir, but it surely’s not strip mining. We use watered down materials, and hold that to a minimal,” Weil responded.
A number of residents additionally voiced pissed off issues concerning the firm’s estimate of 25-50 vans leaving the property every day, first utilizing a service highway subsequent to the water tower north of the Topsail tennis courts, then — when the bypass is accomplished — utilizing Jenkins Street. That highway is usually utilized by dad and mom getting into the varsity campus from Freeway 17 to the south.
A trainer and mom of Topsail college students stated the presence of sand-hauling vans close to the campus would negatively affect the faculties’ studying surroundings.
“As we’ve got it now, our faculties our overcrowded,” she stated. “The quantity of visitors out and in of our services is harmful. The noise degree from 17 is already too excessive … You’re speaking about placing a noise degree that’s detrimental to the educational of our college students.”
In response, Weil stated Jamestown solely plans to have one to 2 excavators working at any given time in an space that’s greater than a thousand toes from the varsity. He additionally stated every day visitors on the longer term bypass will likely be way more distracting than the mining and sand-hauling.
“I’ve heard tonight — ‘Properly you’re going to [operate the mine] for 10 years and the state will likely be finished in 2-Three years.’ I don’t know the way acquainted you might be with state authorities initiatives, but when they end that freeway in three years, then that’s the most effective constructing job I’ve ever seen,” Weil stated. “I don’t need to get political, however my level is that when [the NCDOT] is completed, they’re going to have 50,000 automobiles a day. Which are going to be on the boundary. And we’re far again with vegetative covers from the place we’re going to be working.”
One of many loudest reactions from the gang Tuesday evening got here when a resident requested if Jamestown had thought of alternate options to the sand mine, and Weil stated that that they had mentioned turning the property right into a blueberry farm. Some shouted that they might a lot favor this state of affairs.
Jamestown has additionally mentioned with the U.S. Marine Corps about utilizing the property as a conservation space or donating the land to the adjoining Holly Shelter Recreation Land, in response to Weil.
Presently, the corporate stated it would function the sand mine for roughly ten years earlier than turning the excavated holes into ponds and, in the end, turning the property into conserved and guarded land. Plans already embrace defending a foraging space for red-cockaded woodpeckers on the jap facet of the property.
Andy Wooden, an area environmentalist with the Coastal Land Conservation Group and a Hampstead resident, stated that contemplating the outcry of the neighborhood in response to the mine proposal, the corporate ought to extra severely contemplate conservation choices.
“Would you be prepared to contemplate, if we’re in a position to elevate the cash to amass that property for a good market worth, would you promote it for conservation, contemplating its inherent ecological worth — not simply to crops and wildlife, together with endangered species, but in addition the ecosystem companies that profit the neighborhood?” Wooden requested.
“We’re very open to that dialog,” Weil responded. “We imagine on the finish of the day this should be a conservation zone.”
Shopping center nonetheless deliberate?
In January, Jamestown submitted plans for 344,000 sq. toes of business retail area on Freeway 17, north of the Topsail faculty campus. That is a part of authentic plans for an enormous mixed-use growth, together with practically 900 residential single-family items.
However when the NCDOT froze Jamestown’s property in 2011 for the bypass route — inciting Jamestown to file a lawsuit in 2014 claiming it was an unconstitutional taking — these residential plans turned a factor of the previous.
However the business venture, which continues to be apparently energetic, is on land the place the NCDOT has deliberate to merge the bypass with Freeway 17.
There was some confusion Tuesday evening on whether or not Jamestown was going by with the business facet of the venture. One resident stated there was a big demand in Hampstead for extra retail companies to encourage drivers on Freeway 17 to speculate into the neighborhood, quite than simply driving by it.
In response, Weil stated, “that’s why we’re planning for 344,000 sq. toes,” on 53 acres for places of work and retail shops. However later he appeared to contradict himself.
“There’s a grasp plan in place for that now on this 53 acres,” Weil stated. “However this complete factor will likely be taken away by the bypass interchange.”
Weil didn’t reply on Friday when requested to elucidate the obvious discrepancy, and whether or not Jamestown was truly planning to construct a venture on land designated for the bypass-Freeway 17 interconnections.
Port Metropolis Each day has been protecting Jamestown’s authorized battle with the NCDOT since final 12 months, as much as current developments with a shopping center and sand mine proposal. Get caught up beneath:
Feb. 20, 2019: Bigger than Wilmington’s The Avenue, large growth ‘The Protect’ may very well be coming to Hampstead
Feb. 25, 2019: An summary of the lengthy authorized saga surrounding Hampstead’s potential “The Protect” growth
Dec. 30, 2019: Way forward for main Hampstead growth ready on Map Act case in NC Supreme Court docket
Feb. 6: Plans for Hampstead shopping center submitted to Pender amid court docket battle with NCDOT
Feb. 12, 2020: After land taken for bypass, developer appears to be like to rezone over 500 acres for sand mine behind Topsail Excessive