Washington County planners table quarry permit

The Washington County Courthouse is seen in Fayetteville in this undated file photo. (NWA Democrat-Gazette file photo)

FAYETTEVILLE -- A plan to expand a quarry in northeastern Washington County was delayed Thursday by planners.

The Planning Board voted unanimously to table a permit request to expand the operation at the Hunt-Rogers Quarry east of Springdale and north of U.S. 412. The quarry has been in operation since 2004, according to the county's planning staff. The county's planning ordinance was adopted in 2006 and the operation was "grandfathered in" as an existing use.

County zoning

Under the planning ordinance, all property in unincorporated Washington County is zoned for agricultural or single-family residential use. Any other use requires the property owner to obtain a permit from the county.

Source: Washington County

According to Nathan Crouch, county planning director, the permit will be on the agenda for the Planning Board's April 2 meeting.

The quarry is on 535 acres at 21202 N. Parsons Road. The mining operations takes up about half the property and the open mining pit is about 50 acres. Material stockpiling, processing, loading and other business operations are also done on the site.

Area residents packed the meeting room, with many standing along the walls or in the back of the room as they listened or waited for the opportunity to express their concern. Many spoke of the damage they say the blasting at the quarry has done to their homes, the noise, dust and dirt from the operation and the hazards presented by the constant flow of dump trucks from the quarry.

Several spoke of what they called misrepresentations from the Hunt-Rogers Group on the quarry operation in the past. One of the neighbors, Brett Ralston, said the company has constantly gone beyond the scope of operations they asked for in the past and said he expects they'll continue to do so.

"They're saying this expansion means more tax revenue to the county, that's true," Ralston said. "It also means more mining, more blasting , more extracting and more crushing. They're asking for five times the existing area they're mining and blasting right now. They say there will be no damage to the roads or increased traffic. There's already damage to the roads. It's like a war zone in there from the truck traffic."

Tim Gorman, Hunt-Rogers vice president, said the company has tried to be a good neighbor, has been in compliance with state and federal environmental regulations and has 30 employees working at the quarry whose health the company has to be mindful of. Gorman said the growth of Northwest Arkansas requires the raw material provided by the quarry.

Gorman said the operation has five to seven years of useful life remaining and expansion would extend the life by 40 to 50 years, which became a sticking point for several board members.

"I have a problem with the quantity of new space," board member Neil Helm said during the discussion. "We're doubling or tripling the space. I'm not comfortable with that. I'm not comfortable with approving something that's 50 years out there."

Board member Robert Daugherty also was hesitant about approving the expansion. He asked Gorman to show the board a plan with phases of development and a timeline for the expansion.

"I would be more comfortable with it if it were done in phases," Daugherty said.

Helm said he also wanted the project to come back to the board for review before any work was done beyond the initial stages, if the permit were approved.

"We lose track of these things," Helm said. "On a high-impact project we need something we can keep a short leash on."

Ralston said after the meeting he would have preferred the board vote on the permit at Thursday's meeting.

"We wanted a straight up or down vote," he said. "I think we would have won."

Also at Thursday's meeting, the board approved a permit for the King's Ransom RV Park on 127 acres at 20696 Shady Lane in northeast Washington County. The plans call for spaces for up to 111 recreational vehicles, a clubhouse, swimming pool, laundry facilities, and a small store. The project would have a private waterline and several septic systems to handle waste disposal needs of the vehicles parked there.

NW News on 01/24/2020