Town Had The Responsibility To Request A Public Hearing On The Proposed Quarry Site

Published 3:17 pm Thursday, June 6, 2013

Yes, the Town of Farmville had the legal right to request a public hearing on the proposed Luck Stone granite quarry site. As the owner of an adjacent piece of property, state law gave the Town that right, which Town Council chose to exercise.

More importantly, however, Town Council had the civic moral responsibility to request a public hearing because the piece of property it owns contains Mottley Lake. The Town of Farmville purchased the property to acquire the spring-fed lake, located a few miles upstream from its water treatment plant, as an emergency water source in case of severe drought.

We're not talking about a scenic, recreational lake. If there were a severe drought, the Town's belief is that the syphon system at the lake could keep the Appomattox River from dying by creating a Mottley Lake intravenous flow to the riverbed. Or at least keep the river on life-support until rains came. The Town is expanding its wells at the water treatment for additional drought insurance but Mottley Lake remains a crucial body of water.

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Town officials understandably want assurances that nothing about the operation of the proposed quarry will have a negative impact on the water level or water quality of the lake and a similar assurance that nothing will impact the water quality of the Appomattox River, which feeds its water treatment plant.

Whether one supports the proposed quarry, is ambivalent, or has concerns, everyone can agree that a public hearing, to ask and receive answers to the Town's questions by qualified independent experts, is a reasonable, in fact necessary, step.

Luck Stone Corporation is a responsible corporation and I imagine they are just as keen to have such an assurance before they proceed with the quarry on 330 acres of property located about five miles west of Farmville on U.S. 460.

The Town is not being difficult, not trying to gum up a project supported by the Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors. The Town is exercising the responsibility of due diligence. There will be blasting at the quarry operation, for example. Can that blasting, over the years, have an impact on the springs feeding Mottley Lake?

According to Thomas C. Bibb, Engineering Manager with the Virginia Department of Mines and Mineral Resources and Energy there will be a thorough technical review of the permit application and only after that is complete will the public hearing be scheduled, he informed Town officials. That technical review is expected to take approximately six to eight months.

The Town is seeking expert conclusions and assurances, rather than inexpert opinions.

“Some of the (Prince Edward County) board of supervisors members said they studied it and they didn't think it would be any effect. But nobody will really come out and tell you,” Town Manager Gerald Spates told The Herald, “and I would like to have an independent engineer look at it and see what the potential possibilities are. I know everybody says it shouldn't affect it but there's always that scenario that it could affect it.”

As for the blasting at a quarry, Spates said, “I guess that's council's concern-how is this going to affect the lake with explosions up there and blasting the rock. Is it going to affect the levels in that lake?”
<br />The public hearing, Town officials hope, will directly answer their questions and concerns. And they need direct answers because, yes, Mottley Lake must be protected and the integrity of the Appomattox River maintained, other than the afflictions visited by nature during severe droughts.

“I think that when we go to the hearing we're going to probably, I would think one thing we'd want to do is get some expert advice on, or even get an expert to testify and ask the right questions. I don't know what questions to ask them,” the town manager frankly acknowledged. “The only thing we want to make sure is that we protect Mottley Lake.”

The quarry site's proximity to the lake has Town officials nervous. That property adjoins the Town's acreage and Spates guesses, “I would think you're looking at several hundred yards (between the quarry site and the lake) and I don't know exactly where the quarry will be but I'm assuming they are going to use as much of the property as they can…”

Facts, rather than assumptions, are needed. Specific facts reflecting the geologic personality of this quarry site and the lake, not assumptions based on experiences elsewhere that may differ, geologically, in important ways.

The quarry and the lake may be able to coexist as neighbors just as easily as the Farmville Town Hall and Prince Edward County's administrative offices, side by side.

That is for experts to determine and demonstrate.

And they must. Even if the lake were just a privately-owned body of water someone purchased for fishing, the issue of potential quarry impacts would need to be firmly addressed. But Farmville's survival during a severe drought, not recreation or scenery, may be at stake.