Elements as simple as rocks and water are stirring up problems among some Chapel Hill residents.
The Orange County Board of Commissioners held a public hearing Monday night to decide whether to grant American Stone Co. and Orange Water and Sewage Authority a special-use permit to expand American Stone's existing rock quarry in Hillsborough.
When American Stone stops drilling in 2030, OWASA will turn the quarry into a reservoir.
"We believe our existing reservoirs will serve our customers until 2030," said Peter Gordon, OWASA's chairman of the Board of Directors. "The bottom line is about water needs and water quality."
But residents' opposition to quarry expansion forced the commission to defer its approval until February.
The proposed expansion will move closer to residents' homes on Parrish Road and lower their property value, although OWASA and American Stone would be required to reimburse them for their financial losses. Residents have demanded that they receive water and sewage services to compensate.
And those at the meeting voiced their concerns that they should receive more compensation for the expansion.
"It doesn't seem fair that American Stone Company is making money, OWASA is making money, and people are suffering," said Charlie Williams, pastor of Hickory Grove Missionary Baptist Church. "I think that what is fair is that they are compensated for water and sewage."
But Commissioner Barry Jacobs said the county has never agreed to giving residents on Parrish Road water and sewage services, adding that many residents in the county use septic tanks.
"I think (the plan) has a good chance of going through," Jacobs said after the meeting. "I'm still convinced of the public benefit to be had in building a reservoir."
But Elliot Cramer, a retired UNC statistics professor, disagreed that the county will run out of water in 2030. He claimed that OWASA's estimates that Chapel Hill will grow exponentially in the future are incorrect.
Cramer said that in 20 years all land in the county will be developed and growth would flatten, eliminating the need for a new reservoir.
"Without doing anything at all, Chapel Hill will have enough water," he said, estimating that the town will have water available until 2070.
"It's hard to see a justification for OWASA expanding the size of the quarry."
But Jacobs said he was not sure that Cramer's claims were true.
"Elliot Cramer has made such claims before that have been refuted," Jacobs said, but he also added that they were not necessarily false.
Erwin Danziger, who owns property near the proposed expansion, also criticized American Stone for altering its statistics. He said the company held its activities to lower standards than those of the county in order to make expansion look favorable.
But Gordon remained confident of the application's passage.
"I think a lot of people at OWASA and in Orange County have worked hard on this project because they think the best thing to do for the community is expanding the quarry."
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