Moving to Gainesville wasn’t a difficult choice. Our grandchildren live near Gainesville. We were charmed by Lake Lanier, nearby mountains, green parks, recreational options, educational resources, Gainesville Theater Alliance, the Arts Council, and much more. All of this in a city that in 2014 ranked No. 10 among top places to live in the USA. Throw in a beautiful new 55 and older community with a marina and we were hooked.
Curious about the stability of the area, we checked the Hall County Comprehensive Plan (2004/2005) which laid out policies guided by a 20-year vision. The plan showed 14,870 acres of unincorporated land designated for nonresidential development, most of it tagged for industrial uses. We felt confident because the Browns Bridge corridor was an Agricultural-Residential area. Unfortunately, our research did not reveal that Mincey Marble Manufacturing was nestled in the area we chose.
Now Mincey Marble wants to build an extremely large manufacturing plant, much larger than a football field, a couple of miles from us as the wind blows. For 39 years, the company has spewed styrene and other hazardous materials into our environment. Many residents living near Mincey’s campus frequently smell noxious styrene in their yards, and they have to stay indoors until the wind clears the air.
At a recent community meeting, Donna Mincey stated they “would not put anything in the environment that would hurt our employees, families, or our children.” How does she know they’re not doing just that? They haven’t done an environmental impact study, because Georgia doesn’t require it. We don’t know what we don’t know.
Not so long ago we didn’t know that asbestos, lead (in paint and gasoline), PCBs, even Red Dye No. 4 were harmful, but now they are banned. Styrene is on the list of probable carcinogens. Every week Mincey Marble releases more than a ton of styrene gas into Browns Bridge corridor’s air. This is about 20 times what the typical manufacturer in Mincey’s industry group emits in the U.S.
Residents who live west of McEver Road to the bridge have a right to ask serious questions about things that pollute our air, land and water. What we breathe and eat is a bread-and-butter concern. Many of us purchase organic foods and avoid genetically engineered foods. Many families garden with the goal of producing healthy food.
As Hall County’s professional planning staff noted when they recommended denying the rezoning request, Mincey’s proposal is contrary to the Comprehensive Plan. The planners concluded, “The proposal expands incompatible industrial uses in a predominant residential area.” The Planning Commission overrode the planning staff. Why?
Hall leaders should safeguard the health and lifestyles of our residents. If not the commissioners, then who? Commissioners should deny Mincey’s rezoning request. Doing so would help ensure the future of our lake-hugging peninsula as a stable place for families to thrive. After all, the Comprehensive Plan — paid for with our tax dollars — says it’s the right thing to do.