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Flowery Branch gives first OK to quarry expansion
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Flowery Branch Community Development Director John McHenry runs a presentation at the City Council meeting, summarizing the proposed rock quarry annexation, rezoning and expansion. - photo by NAT GURLEY

Flowery Branch City Council gave its first OK Thursday night to expanding the city’s lone rock quarry, while signaling company officials and area residents to keep working toward a final agreement on conditions.

Vulcan Construction Materials is seeking to annex and rezone 41 acres off Hog Mountain Road, next to its 375-acre quarry off Friendship Road.

The company has said the request would allow the life of the quarry to be extended by some 15-20 years by supplying 15-20 tons of rock materials.

Vulcan Materials’ Jimmy Fleming, vice president of human resources, appealed to council for the approval. He addressed several issues, including residents’ worries about property values.

“You can operate a quarry in such a way that it will not diminish property values,” he said. “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.”

The issue drew several opponents, who filled out the council meeting room at City Hall.

The group included Debbie and Mike Callahan, who live across the road from the proposed Vulcan site.

“We do endure the quarry operations daily. Blasting ... does rattle our home, along with everybody else’s home,” Debbie Callahan said. “We have dust, noise and smells from the asphalt plant.”

Both Vulcan Materials and Flowery Branch officials have committed that one condition of the quarry expansion is that there be no new entrance or exit along Hog Mountain Road.

The expansion is purely “in recognition of the fact that we have an existing site there,” Fleming has said. “You don’t locate quarries every day or find the right kind of rock in every location.”

An earlier letter from a Vulcan attorney to the city states that “in addition to the economic development activities that are created by this type of operation, the city, county and residents in the area benefit from having reduced costs associated with aggregate materials due to close proximity and reduced shipping costs.”

Mike Callahan said residents have had some “good dialogue” with quarry officials over the issue and that he understands the quarry’s economic benefits.

“But it is somewhat undesirable if you’re right next to it,” he said. “Proximity is everything — it’s very undesirable that close.”

One idea that has come up in meetings between the quarry and its neighbors is a multiuse path within the quarry buffer zone along Hog Mountain Road.

Flowery Branch and Hall County have talked about trail connectivity throughout the area, including South Hall. Hog Mountain Road is already a designated biking roadway.

Fleming has agreed to the concept.

“It’s not (unlike) what we’ve done in other locations,” he said, noting wildlife walking trails and nature habitats Vulcan has developed around quarries in North Carolina and California.

The two sides were friendly during Thursday’s meeting, often nodding to each other across the aisle and agreeing on certain points.

The civility spilled into the council’s votes, with Councilman Joe Anglin making the motion to approve the rezonings “with the idea that there is continued discussion with community members and the potential to refine the conditions.”

The matter goes to the council for a final vote on April 3, as well as resolution “that will decide the conditional-use permit and the conditions that will be imposed should the city bring in (the property) and rezone it,” City Attorney Ron Bennett said.