Saturday, September 23, 2023

New sand mine to operate along U.S. 421 following commissioner approval

Drafting and Design Services will open a sand mine along U.S. 421 on 450 acres of land. (Courtesy Pexels)

PENDER COUNTY — More than 450 acres along U.S. 421 in Pender County will soon become a sand mine. Commissioners had a few concerns, but ultimately approved a special-use permit last week, leading the way for the development of a third mine in a roughly 10-mile radius.

Corbett Industries owns the property, managed by R. Theodore Davis III. The company is selling the land for the mine. Michael Blakely with Drafting and Design Services submitted the permit application in early May.

Within the Grady Township parcel off Black River Club Road — a private gravel driveway — there will be a 127-acre mining project. Preliminary site plans show a 1.3-acre plant site and a 74.3-acre initial pit. There is a 31.9-acre future pit expansion planned as well.

While the hours of operation will be Monday to Friday sunrise to sunset — and Saturdays, as needed — Blakely explained to commissioners the mining process takes about two to three weeks to extract enough material to sell for up to five months. Therefore, it would not be constantly operating.

Blakely said the pits are sectioned out in 10-acre pieces, dug to 35-feet deep as a wet mining operation. Basically, crews dig out the material in 10,000- to 15,000-square-foot sections and let it drain for up to 21 days. The material is then pumped into another pit and mined out. It gets set aside and hauled off as it sells. 

Material will be sold to public contractors and concrete/asphalt production facilities. Mined sand is often used in the manufacturing of concrete for building construction.

The site will also contain an office for sales and on-site scales to weigh material being purchased. Water and sewer will be private and provided by a well and septic system.

Plans are to begin mining on the southeast side of the site and work outward. No blasting or heavy material processing will be required for the sand excavation, according to Blakely.

He also confirmed there will be no discharge into the nearby river — about 200 feet away — or the surrounding wetlands, as it will all be managed on site. There is already in place a 50-foot buffer to the closest neighboring property line, which Blakely said will be left undisturbed.

“Within 10 years, if you’re standing at the property line, you won’t know what’s going on on the other side of the property,” he said.

The area is zoned rural agriculture with general industrial zoning to the southwest and residential performance to the west. There are roughly 30 residences on the west side — off Sinai Drive and Pender Lake Road — with the closest being 1,000 feet away. Blakley said there are wetlands in between the homes and the sand pit, as well as a 200-foot buffer that will remain vegetated.

In recent years, the land was used for forestry and a portion was recently cleared to allow for the mining site. There is only one access off U.S. 421 to the property, Black River Club Road, which will be updated to provide a two-way traffic route. The North Carolina Department of Transportation will have to determine if any road improvements are required prior to approving the access point.

Commissioner chair David Piemeyer raised concerns the property coming off U.S. 421 was not included in the site plan and would therefore not be under the permit’s conditional uses.

Planning director Travis Henley explained commissioners could add a condition to ensure all buffer requirements apply to that land as well, which is also owned by Corbett.

A traffic impact analysis is not needed, unless NCDOT determines so, since the project is estimated to generate less than 150 trips per day.

Senior planner Justin Brantley explained that U.S. 421 is also considered “underserved” at this time with 7,000 daily vehicle trips but has the capacity to accommodate up to 44,000.

The sand mining operation will have to obtain local, state and federal permitting prior to operations. This will also require yearly inspections, monthly reporting and annual permit renewals.

Update: This article has been updated to indicate Corbett Industries owns the land but will not be the company operating the sand mine.

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