The Daily Tar Heel

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Wednesday December 7th

County's Approval of Quarry\Expansion Riles Residents

County's Approval of Quarry\Expansion Riles Residents

But the plan to expand American Stone Co.'s existing quarry still faces final state approval and opposition from concerned neighbors of the site, despite the board's vote to rezone the area and approve a special-use permit.

Orange County's water needs are handled through the Orange Water and Sewer Authority, an independent agency that sought the rezoning to expand its existing reservoir. OWASA spokesman Greg Feller said the new reservoir would aid the Cane Creek and University Lake reservoirs in meeting the growing demands of Orange County.

"It could meet water supply needs for 50 years," he said.

But some area residents and activists oppose the expansion.

Retired UNC statistics Professor Elliot Cramer, who was asked by residents to examine the proposal, called the expansion "detrimental to the community." Cramer said the county's population growth will level off and water needs could be met by existing resources.

Cramer also said OWASA is not acting in the interest of the county's residents. But some of the commissioners, as well as OWASA and American Stone officials, refute these claims.

Commissioner Margaret Brown cited the special-use permit included in the proposal as protection for residents. The stipulation, which Brown says is to "protect the community," includes a well repair fund that obligates American Stone to repair damaged wells for area residents, regardless of the reason for the damage.

Brown called the fund an "opportunity to mitigate the impacts" of the expansion. But she maintained that "the area showed in no way any lessening of property values."

But Commissioner Alice Gordon, who voted against the proposals, called the expansion of the quarry and the eventual reservoir "too great an impact on the natural environment and the people out there."

Some residents raised objections about allowing American Stone to continue maintaining the quarry for up to 30 more years. "The blasting has been hostile to the community," Cramer said.

But Paxton Badham, an executive at American Stone, downplayed the magnitude of disruption to the surrounding community. "On average we blast about one time a week and it lasts about a second," he said.

Despite these objections, officials for local governments, OWASA and American Stone call the expansion a wise investment for the region's future needs.

Gordon called the situation "one of those things where reasonable people can disagree.

"It's now ready to go forward."

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