Council OKs Geologist For Mottley Lake

Published 2:54 pm Tuesday, October 15, 2013

FARMVILLE — The Town of Farmville doesn’t doubt that the proposed Luck Stone quarry site in Prince Edward County would be a positive economic development for the community.

But Town officials want to be sure an active quarry adjacent to Mottley Lake would not negatively affect the quantity of the spring-fed emergency water supply or its quality.

After several months of discussing what they regard as the Town’s need for expert advice, Town Council took action this month, authorizing the hiring of a geologist to provide impartial analysis and to represent the Town during a public hearing to be held by the Virginia Department of Mines and Mineral Resources.

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The Town of Farmville would like to see Luck Stone Corporation enter into an agreement pledging to correct any negative impact, were the quarry operation to have a deleterious effect on Mottley Lake, which is located on a 147-acre property owned by the Town.

“It’s not…anybody saying that we’re not in favor of Luck Stone coming in or that it’s not going to be a good thing for the community—I think everybody agrees that it probably would be,” Town Manager Gerald Spates told council members. “The only thing we want to do is make sure that down the road that our property’s protected and that’s what these people are going to address.”

Springs and wells are different, Spates explained.

“Springs can be affected a lot easier than a well can,” Spates explained.

The geologist will evaluate the springs upstream as part of the analysis, which is expected to cost $10,000 or less, town council was told.

“There needs to be something drawn up to make sure that Luck Stone, or whoever’s over there, is responsible to correct any problems that we might have,” the town manager noted.

As an adjacent landowner, the Town had a right to seek a public hearing—it did—and the geologist would represent the Town during the hearing “to ask the geological questions that we wouldn’t necessarily know to ask,” Spates said, “…and ask the hard questions on how this is going to affect us.”

Town council’s vote to hire the geologist was unanimous.

“It needs to be done,” said Vice-Mayor Armstead D. Reid.

The Town was told in a May 14 letter from Thomas C. Bibb, Engineering Manager with the Department of Mines and Mineral Resources, that a public hearing will be scheduled.

Luck Stone Corporation has applied to the department for a permit to operate a granite quarry, with the pit location to be developed on 330 acres of property approximately five miles west on US 460.

Bibb has told the Town that the permit application must undergo “a thorough technical review” by the department. The public hearing will be held, in Farmville, after that review is complete.

The Town purchased Mottley Lake as an insurance policy against extreme drought. A siphon system has been tested and would be used to release a flow of water from the lake into the Appomattox River, where it would be collected by the Town’s water treatment plant several miles downstream.

“Our best approach might be to have somebody come in and give us something unbiased,” council member Dr. Edward I. Gordon said of the merits of a geological analysis, “and if they tell us, unbiased, that there’s no way to know that’s at least something good for us to know, from someone unbiased, and then maybe we can get something that if our bathtub runs dry, something happens, (Luck Stone) will give us such and such.”

Gordon, who wasn’t the only council member to wonder if an agreement with Luck Stone might be possible, asked, theoretically, if such a deal might actually be so advantageous that the Town would withdraw any possible opposition to the project.

“I think that if we proceed with the idea that maybe would they enter into an agreement, legally, with us that if something happens, maybe they would do something like that just for us to withdraw any kind of objection,” he speculated.

The possibility was not lost on Spates.

“Luck Stone,” the town manager said, “is going to want to make sure that we are on board with whatever they do.”

The Town of Farmville, however, has nothing to do with the permitting process.

“The only thing we can hope,” Spates said, “is that we can get Luck Stone to agree to whatever these people find out when they do this study of how it could potentially impact (Mottley Lake).”

In an April 14 letter to Prince Edward’s Board of Supervisors, Land Use & Development Leader for Luck Companies, Benjamin A. Thompson, explained that the company’s application for the state permit “will facilitate Luck’s ability to begin removal of overburden material as soon as possible from the site in preparation for future mining activities. We will be providing (the department) with an official application and suitable operations and drainage plans per our County Use Permit.”

Thompson also pointed out that “as part of this process, we are also required to notify all landowners within 1,000 feet of the proposed permit boundary, any of whom may request a public hearing be held and hosted by the (department). We have received indication that the…permitting process, as standard review, could take as long as 6-8 months before a permit would be issued.”

Luck, Thompson told supervisors, “is extremely excited about our site in Prince Edward and to be part of the community.”