LUMBERTON — A Robeson County Superior Court judge on Thursday dismissed an appeal of a county Board of Commissioners’ decision to grant a conditional-use permit for the establishment of a sand-mining operation in a Residential-Agricultural zone off Buie-Philadelphus Road.
Judge Robert Floyd Jr. ruled in favor of the county’s request to dismiss the case on grounds that those appealing the decision of the commissioners, who were sitting as the county’s Board of Adjustment, did not comply with the letter of the law when they failed to include the actual permit holder in those named as respondents in the case.
Buie Lakes Plantation LLC, the developers who received the conditional-use permit on July 2, 2012, to pursue the mining operation, was not named in the lawsuit. Those listed as respondents in the case filed by Philadelphus Presbyterian Foundation Inc. and several residents were the Robeson County Board of Adjustment, the Robeson County Board of Commissioners and Robeson County.
Gates Harris, an attorney for the petitioners, said that Buie Lakes Plantation was not included in the petition because at the time the petition was filed it was uncertain if the developing company was a certified corporation in North Carolina and permitted to do work within the state.
Harris, surrounded by about 10 opponents of the mining operation, told The Robesonian after the court hearing that the court’s ruling will be appealed.
Plans include construction of a $22 million processing facility to clean and remove iron from the sand that will be used to make glass for solar panels. It is estimated by the company that the county could collect more than $200,000 in property taxes annually, and that 36 permanent jobs could be created.
Buie Lakes Plantation had previously proposed to develop a subdivision on the property, which abuts the historic Philadelphus Presbyterian Church, but community members have said that the intent of the developer is only to mine sand and that it will never develop the processing plant that would create jobs.
According to the developers, only 125 acres of a 500-acre tract would be mined.
Craig Brewer, a managing partner with the development company, said before the start of Thursday’s hearing that his company has not done any work on the property.
“Would you with this hanging over your head?” he said.
During a hearing before the commissioners last summer, those opposing the mining operation asked the commissioners to wait on granting the permit so the state Department of Commerce could do a feasibility study.
“The real issue at the end of the day is that you are putting an industry in a residential area,” Harris told the commissioners during the summer hearing. “In addition to getting a room full of angry people, putting an industry in a residential area like this is going to destroy everybody’s property value.”
Commissioner Raymond Cummings, who represents the district where the mining operation would be located, succeeded at getting the commissioners to add several conditions to the permit. These included that the processing facility be built at the back of the property, about 600 feet from Buie-Philadelphus Road; that no truck traffic be allowed to operate before 8 a.m. to ensure school buses have concluded their morning runs; if any burial grounds are found on the property, mining must stop in that area; and that there be security on the property 24 hours a day.
“There are a lot of conditions in the permit protecting the integrity of the county,” County Attorney Hal Kinlaw said after Thursday’s hearing. “I’m sympathetic to the concerns of the residents. There is an inherent distrust of county government and government in general.”
Kinlaw believes there are sufficient safeguards to property private property.
“I think the conditions are more than enough to meet the historic and environmental concerns of the residents,” he said. “There also is no evidence that there will be any decrease in property values.”