I ask Hall County commissioners to finally stand up for residents greatly impacted by past decisions from the almost constant 39-year expansion of Mincey Marble in what is, and has been, a rural residential area.
If you have not been to the factories and smelled the styrene that permeates the air for several miles, you and prior commissioners have been derelict in your duty. If you have experienced the smell, disapproving the most recent rezoning request should be a no-brainer. The concept Mincey was there “first” before many new residents is faulty given its callous disregard for nearby residents through wholesale releases of smelly styrene that have increased in proportion to its expansion.
I would point out this industrial facility started in 1977 in a 3,800-square-foot building (smaller than a Chick-fil-A). With major expansions approved in 1983, 1994 and 2008, commissioners have allowed Mincey to grow as big as a Wal-Mart in this residential corridor adjacent to Lake Lanier. As a consequence, styrene release have skyrocketed. What likely took a year to release back in the 1980s is now equivalent to what is released in 10 days.
Hasn’t the commission sufficiently bent over backward to support a business over the health, welfare and enjoyment of local residents? When owners again ask to double their size and styrene releases, will you or your successors allow it? At what point do you say “enough is enough” and have them move to a proper industrial park. Denial of this rezoning would not achieve that, but it is a start.
A counterargument is that Mincey will install “state-of-the-art” equipment to deal with styrene. This is not new technology; why did owners not do this before? If it was a cure-all rather than a marketing gimmick, Mincey surely would provide scientific data on its effectiveness and styrene reduction.
I would ask to look at Mincey’s record in complying with relatively minor conditions placed on it throughout expansion at these sites based on Planning Commission meeting minutes of Aug. 13, 2014 (listed below), and what assurances owners offer to maintain and operate this styrene removal system.
• Mincey converted three poultry houses into a manufacturing use sometime prior to 1993 in violation of zoning restrictions.
• Mincey failed to install a standard 10-foot buffer, violating 1994 and 2014 conditions.
• Mincey admitted in August 2014 it was in violation of 1994 conditions that limited number of employees to 15, but instead had 40 to 50 working at the Hidden Hills Drive site.
• Mincey combined its existing original two buildings into one principal structure by building a connector building without approval, violating a 1994 condition.
• As late as 2014, Mincey continued to expand operations by enclosing an “open but roofed” storage area and further building expansion south of the original structures. This violation came after specific disapproval in the Aug. 13, 2014, minutes.
It is past time for commissioners to not only follow the Comprehensive Plan and recommendations of its own planning staff but ensure the welfare, safety and enjoyment of residents, long-timers and newcomers.