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Flowery Branch approves quarry expansion
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Flowery Branch City Council approved a request by Vulcan Materials to expand its quarry operation by an additional 41 acres. 

Council voted unanimously Thursday to approve annexation and rezoning of the two parcels on Hog Mountain Road near the intersection with Friendship Road/Lanier Islands Parkway. 

Previously zoned as unincorporated Hall County agricultural/residential, the two parcels will now be considered within Flowery Branch city limits and as M-2, to accommodate blasting and removal of aggregate.

This move will add 15-20 years to the life of the quarry, said quarry officials. The quarry now contains approximately 375 acres bounded by Hog Mountain, Friendship, Blackjack and Swansey roads.

City Planner John McHenry, when briefing the council and handful of residents, said there would be no additional quarry entrances constructed, nor an increase in operations, “rather, an increase in use of life,” McHenry said. 

The land will remain untouched until at least September. Then, there may be an additional 4-6 months of no site movement as Vulcan officials secure the required permits from the state. 

Blasting on the parcels would not begin until at least 2016, according to Vulcan 

Materials’ Jimmy Fleming, vice president of human resources.

Residents Debbie and Mike Callahan were the only ones to offer public comment during this second and final reading before the vote. 

Mrs. Callahan expressed concern about the blasting radius, since their residence will be closest the property. Vulcan has placed a seismograph on their land to confirm their tract will not be affected. 

“We’ve got six monitors out at this site,” Fleming said, which record earth vibration data. This data will be provided to the city monthly, for release to anyone with an interest as well, “to reassure the citizens,” he said. 

Quarterly community advisory meetings will continue, plus a condition of approval that additional meeting requests may be made at will by city zoning officials. 

In addition, the land setback from Hog Mountain Road has been increased to 3.5 acres and will include a berm, landscaping, both decorative and security fencing, and an agreed upon 1,600 feet of multiuse trail.

“It will be an asset to the community,” Fleming said. 

“You can operate a quarry in such a way that it will not diminish property values,” Fleming said during last month’s first reading of Vulcan’s request. “We’ve seen that all around our other quarries — we know what the property values are. I think we have a good record to stand on.”

Mike Callahan said residents have had some “good dialogue” with quarry officials, and city officials commended both sides for creating a working relationship. 

“We’re going to be some of your closest neighbors,” said Mrs. Callahan. “But I would like to submit to you — we’re going to be an accountability group. And a ‘yes’ vote by the city equals its commitment to supporting the quarry’s transparency and good faith actions."

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