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Mincey Marble gets loud protests from residents over proposed plant
Company looking to construct new building across from current facility
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Lewis Miller asks other Browns Bridge Road residents to stand if they are bothered by the odor emitted from Mincey Marble during a meeting at the Continuing Education Building at the University of North Georgia, Gainesville Campus, between Mincey Marble executives and Browns Bridge Road residents to discuss a proposed marble plant expansion in West Hall. Many residents in the area attended the discussion to ask questions and show their opposition. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Browns Bridge Road residents aren’t exactly throwing out the welcome mat for a proposed new plant.

“We’re happy with your success — we truly are, but (the plant) does not belong in the middle of a residential area,” Sheila Chastain told Mincey Marble officials Tuesday night.

With that comment, applause rippled across the audience of some of 150 residents who showed for a meeting with Mincey at the University of North Georgia’s Gainesville campus to talk about the 39-year-old West Hall company’s plans.

Mincey hopes to build the 100,750-square-foot plant across the road from current operations at 4321 Browns Bridge Road.

“Why not go into an industrial park?” Chastain continued. “You don’t belong in a residential area. Period.”

The company is seeking a zoning change in order to build the plant, which would also be off Spainhill Road and would replace a smaller operation off nearby Hidden Hills Drive.

“You’re talking millions and millions of dollars to” move all the company’s operations, said Donna Mincey, Mincey president and CEO, to the group.

The theme was repeated throughout the night.

“Why don’t you just move?” asked Hildegard Diaz. “You’re growing by leaps and bounds. … It may cost you now, but in the long run, you’re going to be the benefactor.”

Residents voiced concerns on many issues, including property values, traffic on already busy Browns Bridge Road, as well as the environment and complaints over odors pervading neighborhoods.

In a particularly heated moment, resident Lewis Miller turned to the crowd and asked, “How many people in this audience … can’t go outside or you’re unable to open windows? Will you just stand up please?”

A large number of residents stood.

When Miller started to ask another question, Gainesville attorney Steve Gilliam, the event’s moderator, said, “Hold the questions until we finish the presentation. Please be seated.”

Mincey told the audience that the company “has a proven track record of taking care of our employees and our families in this area, and we would not put anything in the environment that would hurt our employees, families or our children.”

Also drawing grumbles from the audience was a recent change in the zoning request from heavy industrial to planned industrial development.

“As far as what we’re asking for, it’s staying the same,” project civil engineer Ed Myers said. “But what that (change) does … is it doesn’t set a precedent of heavy industrial.

“It’s a site plan-specific zoning, so if (Mincey) sold the property down the road, it couldn’t be used for any other use than what’s (proposed) right now.”

Residents weren’t satisfied, however, with some calling the change “semantics” and that it didn’t change the bottom line of bringing industrial use to the area.

One resident, David Chastain, questioned whether the move might affect bureaucratic processes.

The matter has been set to go before the Hall County Board of Commissioners Aug. 25.

Judy Paul, a real estate agent who sells Lake Lanier property, said she worried about property values in the area.

“I have three listings in that area and they’re not selling,” she said.

“I saw the picture of how big that (proposed) building is, and I’m just going to tell you, when I’m working with a buyer looking for lake property … perception is reality and (the new plant) will definitely affect our property values.”