WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — There will not be a sand mine coming to north New Hanover County following a vote by county leaders Monday afternoon.
Hilton Properties worked over the past two months to get the county’s approval to put a controversial sand mine along Castle Hayne Road north of GE.
“I am shocked and very, very happy,” said neighbor Rick Wilson who has fought the mine dating back to when the NCDEQ gave the property a permit for the mine several years ago.
The land, for the longest time, was zoned to for agricultural use. The developer was approved for rezoning and the special use permit for a mining operation last month by the county planning board.
This was after the developer was granted a continuance on the project and returned with new buffer plans along the private road that backs up to a dozen homes. Conditions were also added for a half mile stretch of Sledge Road, where the upwards to 80 dump trucks would traverse sand off of the mining site, to be widened and paved. However, the part that would be paved and maintained was not near the outlet onto Castle Hayne Road.
It was enough to get approved at the planning level, but not before the county commission mostly because a majority of commissioners did not see the public need for it.
“Development in New Hanover County would end, it cannot exist in the absence of sand,” said attorney Steve Coggins representing the land owner.
Coggins’s claim was quickly challenged by commissioner Woody White who said, “Well it’s existed until today without this sand mine,” referring to growth and development.
“We’re simply going to be digging some sand, moving it in dump trucks, and going from there,” said Coggins before the commission adding that the state mining permit requires they stop any operation if contaminants or hazardous material is uncovered given that the site sits near a reported contamination site GE is responsible for.
“What have we heard, or what should we hear for us to find that having a sand mine is in the public interest,” asked commissioner White who was joined by commissioner Pat Kusek who questioned if the conditional rezoning had any assurance the sand taken would be staying local for beach, road, or building projects.
“I have no problem with them using their resource, but it has to be done in a manner that’s responsible to the county and especially the residents of the area,” said neighbor Don Kohler who from the beginning never spoke publicly at meetings but carried a sign that read, ‘Heavy Industry is not Neighborly’.
In the end it came down to not noise, but the necessity. The commission voted 4 to 1 against the rezoning. There was an issue brought up that an apparent key piece of evidence was not given to commissioners that displayed how the operation was within the public interest and necessity. Because of that, commissioner Rob Zapple argued that the request by Hilton Properties be continued to a later meeting. However, that request came after a motion and a second to turn it down.
WWAY has reached out to Mr. Coggins for further statement on the decision by the commission that left many Castle Hayne neighbors happily surprised.
“I am so happy that they citizens were considered over industry, an unnecessary industry,” said Wilson.