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Save RDU Forest issue: Top comments from the public hearing

After years of activism and back-and-forth between the Raleigh-Durham International Airport and the Umstead Coalition, the public hearings on Wake Stone’s proposed quarry brought out hundreds of speakers with Save RDU Forest, local residents and Wake Stone.

And it was all over Zoom. The N.C. Department of Environmental Quality held the hearing on June 23 and then continued it in July to fit in all the speakers.

The proposed quarry in the 105-acre Odd Fellows tract has led to heated and passionate arguments on both sides. Here is a timeline of the Save RDU Forest issue for a refresher.

Although the fight exploded in March 2019, when the lease was signed with Wake Stone, the issue goes back July 2017. At that time, the Umstead Coalition, The Conservation Fund and Triangle Off-Road Cyclists offered to buy the Odd Fellows tract for $6.5 million. In 2015, the airport also tried to swap more than 300 acres with Umstead Park without notifying the coalition.

There were more than 80 speakers and Zoom-held hearing lasted the better part of the evening, with each person having two minutes for their remarks.

Although the public hearings have ended, the DEQ will continue to accept public comments until Friday, July 17.

One of the most forceful comments of the evening came from Tamara Dunn, whose house on Old Reedy Creek Road would not be far from the new quarry. Here is what she said:

Can you hear me? Oh, perfect. Ok. My name is Tamara Dunn. I’m an adjacent landowner to the proposed quarry. I ask DEQ to deny Wake Stone’s submitted mining permit modification and to investigate the changes made to the original Wake Stone 50-year sunset clause agreement.

This project will destroy our quality of life. The previous (Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority) board assured us the land between our home and Interstate 40 would be a buffer and not developed. We trusted their promise, purchased our land and built our home. When Wake Stone approached the previous RDUAA board regarding mining on public land, they had the foresight to turn them down.

The current RDUAA board is uncommunicative and short-sighted. The current pandemic impacts long-term travel and development. The only reason we are still embroiled in this inadvisable folly is because of their desire to build a monument to their ego and it clouds their better judgment.

North Carolina law regarding land-use and impact on adjoining landowners states landowners are expected to use their property reasonably without unduly interfering with the rights of the owners’ contiguous land. Anything a person does that appropriates adjoining land or substantially deprives adjoining landowner of the reasonable enjoyment of their property is an unlawful use of one’s property. As adjoining landowners, we expect neighboring property owners to conduct themselves responsibly and not affect the value or enjoyment of adjoining property.

The land is not needed for airport expansion. For personal gain, RDUAA, Wake Stone, the four governing bodies who own the property and now the DEQ are stripping us of our rights.

Wake Stone’s Dyno Nobel’s analysis says structures more than 500 feet from the pit should not have structural damage. … The application shows our home will be 200 feet from the pit and the blast. My interpretation is Dyno Nobel admits our home will likely suffer substantial damage. Our home already shakes and has large visible cracks possibly attributed to blast from the existing mine. How will we survive 200 feet? I request DEQ make public all blasting data Wake Stone is required to monitor for the current pit. DEQ has refused for over 60 days to provide this to the public. What is DEQ and Wake Stone hiding?

Other comments from the Wake Stone quarry public hearing

Betsy Beals, neighbor

It is very unjust and destructive practices of allowing businesses to destroy open spaces, cut down all trees, disturb land in the beautiful area called the Odd Fellows tract.

I thank you for finally having the opportunity to voice my opinion on the rock quarry lease. Please deny for four reasons.

Many protested in 1979 against this rock quarry saying we had 12 others in Wake County and not the need for another one. Wake Stone still has three quarries in this area. This almost sounds greedy to me. So RDU and Wake County hopefully will not allow this lease and let North Carolina Land Conservation buy.

Why deny this?

As an adjacent homeowner and a senior citizen, I have lived on Reedy Creek Road since 1966. This is a very egregious and financially damaging development to my home, plus my clean drinking water well. Wake Stone lacks the facts and evidence and provides very little detail. The blasting study in most states lets you know when they’re blasting. It’s also a bad financial deal for the citizens of Wake County who daily use Lake Crabtree.

No amount of money can replace this … area and the way it’s used.

Logging trucks will be passing a one-lane bridge on Old Reedy Creek Road along with bulldozers and skitters and dump trucks and noisy chainsaws, block roads and diesel fuels from industrial service. The bridge says 32 tons, but those signs just went up.

I’ve lived here over 50 years. My address has changed six times.

Randall Dunn, neighbor

My house is next to the proposed quarry. I urge the DEQ to deny this request. My property is about two-thirds of a mile from Wake Stone’s current quarry. And I can feel and hear when they blast, and I’ve found cracks in my foundation from blasting. This change would move the quarry pit from two-thirds of a mile from my property to 100 feet from my property. The impact on my house, my family and our health would be devastating. Wake Stone’s application says that their blasting would not cause damage to structures as close as 500 feet. While I’m very skeptical of this claim, it’s clear that not even Wake Stone has claimed that they can prevent damage to my house, which is far less than 500 feet from their proposed quarry pit. My house is less than 200 feet, less than half the distance they claim is safe.

The 1972 Mining Act says the permit can be denied due to a direct and substantial physical hazard to the public health and safety or to a neighboring dwelling or house. The expanded quarry pit would clearly be a substantial hazard to my house and to the health and safety of my family. In addition to my house, I am worried about my family and our health. What would happen to them if they were in the backyard 100 feet from one of Wake Stone’s blasts. What would the health effects of the blasting and the air pollution be?

I urge you to deny this request. Also, Wake Stone’s original permit called for their current site to be turned to the state after 50 years of operation. This would be in 2031, 50 years after the quarry began in 1981. This sunset clause remained in their permit until two years ago when it was removed without a hearing or any public input with the claim that the sunset clause was a typo. This was clearly not a typo. The current quarry should cease operation in 2031 as part of Wake Stone’s original agreement when they first opened the quarry. Thank you.

Jean Spooner, chairwoman of the Umstead Coalition

In the past 20 years, I have seen, heard, felt and keep learning even more … about the many adverse impacts of the existing quarry to William B. Umstead State Park. … which includes the 1992 landslide covering Crabtree Creek and numerous citizen claims have been hidden away in the paper files of the DEQ.

We have suffered for decades with a quarry operation we knew would end by 2031 with the promised 50-year sunset clause. Our park and park users have endured high concentrations of … discharging constantly into our park from their sprinkler system attempts to control the dust right next to the park and into Crabtree Creek and stormwater. … Now the private quarry is asking to severely lessen the buffer protections we have on the existing site and give us only minimal protections on the proposed site. And measuring from the center line of Crabtree Creek is a really odd thing. The standard is to center from the top of the bank. All the buffers are severely less than what was promised in the original 1981 permit. …

The stability and integrity of Crabtree Creek is in itself in jeopardy. Wishing that were not so is not the same as having the needed engineering study to show otherwise. There are no mitigation measures that are possible on this small 106-acre site that makes the destruction of our public property without severe impacts to our freshwaters and William B. Umstead State Park and the Old Reedy Creek Road recreation area.

Deny the permit please.

Mark Stohlman, former mayor of Morrisville

We ask that you deny this permit per section D5, adverse effects on Umstead State Park and Old Reedy Creek recreation corridor. The towns of Morrisville and Cary have invested tens of millions of dollars in greenway systems and facilities. … All of these trails lead directly to Umstead Park and the Old Reedy Creek Road area, and they are used by thousands of trail users. These trail users will be adversely impacted by increased noise, dust, and truck traffic. The original Wake Stone quarry were to cease operations in 2031, and this expansion would not even be possible without the sunset clause being changed unbeknownst to the municipalities that invested all of this money, time and energy over many years in our trail systems.

Please deny the expansion permit and restore the sunset clause. Thank you for your time.

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