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Mincey Marble's OK to expand plant still ruffles residents
Issues lingering from rezoning vote include appeal, threatening letters
The Hall County Board of Commissioners on Oct. 13 approved Mincey Marble’s rezoning request to allow the company to build a plant on 11 acres across from current operations at 4321 Browns Bridge Road.
The uproar over Mincey Marble’s plans to build a 100,750-square-foot plant on Browns Bridge Road may have seemed to end with an affirmative rezoning vote on Oct. 13.

Far from it.

Since that split vote by the Hall County Board of Commissioners, an appeal of the rezoning has been filed in Hall Superior Court, a police investigation over threatening letters has been launched and the West Hall company has come under criticism for not having a required certificate of occupancy and business license on the building it’s trying to replace.

And then there’s just the lingering disappointment among residents.

“I am still trying to figure out how in the world the commissioners could have ever, ever voted to approve this,” said Judy Paul, an area resident who was one of the issue’s more vocal opponents during the debate.

On the other hand, Mincey officials are ready to move forward.

Company president Donna Mincey said last week she hopes Mincey “will be breaking ground and installing a slab foundation in the next three months, with construction to be completed by summer.”

The commission’s vote allowed the plant’s construction on 11 acres across from current operations at 4321 Browns Bridge Road.

Mincey, which was founded nearly 40 years ago at its current location, has said the new facility — on land it has owned for years — would modernize operations.

“We would be better able to manage our emissions, there would be no increase in traffic and we’d be enhancing the Browns Bridge Road corridor,” she said.

The vote marked the end of a contentious debate that split many in the community.

Objections included concerns over styrene odors emitted from the plant and their possible adverse health effects, traffic on the already busy Browns Bridge Road and lowering property values.

One of the overriding concerns was that the new plant simply didn’t fit in a residential neighborhood.

Some of those issues have spilled over in the appeal, filed Nov. 11 by Cumberland on Lanier Owners Association. Cumberland on Lanier is a high-end subdivision off Browns Bridge Road, not far from Mincey.

“The rezoning decision and proposed development introduces marble manufacturing into an existing residential community that will emit a known carcinogen into the atmosphere that studies have shown will have negative health and welfare impacts upon the surrounding residents,” the appeal states.

In a statement, Mincey officials said, “We are disappointed with the decision of the Cumberland on Lanier Owners’ Association to file suit against the Hall County commission. We remain confident that the commissioners made the right decision in our recent rezoning effort.”

On another legal matter, law enforcement is investigating “threatening letters related to the dispute with Mincey Marble,” according to the Browns Bridge Residents Coalition petition website.

“This behavior is certainly not condoned,” the website states.

The coalition was formed in opposition to the rezoning.

Lt. Scott Ware, Hall County Sheriff’s Office spokesman, confirmed that the sheriff’s office and the Gainesville Police Department are investigating the threats.

“So far, there have been no arrests,” he said, without giving further details.

Residents have complained that Mincey has been illegally operating its facility on nearby Hidden Hills Drive, the plant  officials have said would be shut down once the new building is opened.

In a statement issued last week, Mincey said that “during our recent rezoning for a new building, we learned that we did not have a current certificate of occupancy for (the facility).

“We had already been making improvements to the Hidden Hills plant and will continue working with the Hall County Planning Department on plans that will allow us to maintain operations there while we build our new replacement building.”

Hall County Administrator Randy Knighton said, “We recognize there are still some matters outstanding on that facility. We have spoken to Mincey representatives about that, and (there are) items that still need to be rectified.”

Opponents have said they believe the plant needs to be shut down immediately.

Knighton said the county tries to work with property owners to fully comply with county laws.

“In this case, there was progress by Mincey to address (issues),” Knighton said. “We try to obtain voluntary compliance for a property that has issues that need to be addressed.”

The petition website also suggests another option for residents seeking direction in the aftermath of the vote.

“Although, the Hall commission did not listen to the voices of the petition signers, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources ... has committed to listening and is interested in hearing if you smell styrene.”

Paul, a real estate agent who sells Lake Lanier property, said that she also worries about property values in the area.

“I have three listings right there I can’t get sold,” she said.

Paul likened Mincey’s presence to that of two buildings the size of Wal-Mart Supercenters sitting across from each other, “and they’re manufacturing things.”

“That’s an industrial park,” she said. “Most people don’t want to live by an industrial park.”