The Lee County Commission in front of a standing-room-only crowd Monday night discussed the proposed rock quarry near Opelika after residents expressed opposition along with Opelika Mayor Gary Fuller and City Attorney Guy Gunter.
The commission voted to have Judge Bill English write an ordinance against the quarry, with County Attorney Stan Martin.
The potential quarry, which would be located on County Road 168 near Opelika, was proposed by CreekWood Resources, LLC, with a company address in Florence.
“The site of the quarry is surrounded on three sides by the Opelika city limits and it’s near, many on the north side, to Opelika residential communities,” Gunter said.
Residents and nearby landowners have expressed outrage over the proposal. Fuller has fought against the quarry, and businesses and organizations throughout the county are sporting lawn signs in opposition.
Many concernsTraffic, noise problems, and pollution to water and air are among the concerns.
“The first and most important impact would be on Saugahatchee Lake,” Gunter said. “As everyone in this room knows, Saugahatchee Lake is the primary source of drinking water for the city of Opelika. But you don’t stop there, it is also the backup water system for every community in Lee County.”
Fuller said that the quarry would affect property values in Lee County.
The meeting drew one of the largest crowds that the county commission has had, officials said. Some residents had to stand because the room was so full.
Fuller has sought legal council to oppose the quarry. Many residents have also taken the burden to vocally express their opposition.
Opelika resident Teresa Herren, who lives in the Cedar Creek neighborhood, said that she does not want the air pollution near her home, children or the schools.
“I do intend to write letters,” she said. “I’ve already signed several petitions actually. I think there’s several that are circulating right now. There’s also a website that’s taking donations to help with fighting the quarry.
“I’m definitely willing to contribute to anything that stops it, and most of the people that I’ve spoken with are in agreement with that.”
Resident Banks Herndon addressed the potential health concerns, such as pollutants and carcinogens in the air.
CreekWood Resources, LLC released a document on Jan. 29 that showed the conditions for the site of the quarry, one of which specified that the location should be downwind from the nearest city.
“I wonder, why is it that they’re so concerned about which direction the wind is going to be blowing,” Herndon said. “What’s the reason for that? It’s not to keep the employees cool up there while they’re working.
“What’s the reason? Is the reason that there’s going to be something in the air that can harm the citizens of this county, like the carcinogens.”
Supporting OpelikaGunter also requested the commission to consider providing financial aid to the city of Opelika.
“This is going to be a very expensive matter, I can tell you that up front,” he said. “The quarry will have very good attorneys representing it.”
Gunter said that they wanted the commission to not only draft an ordinance against the quarry but to reach out to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.
CreekWood Resources, LLC. has applied to ADEM for air and water pollution permits.
One way to fight against the quarry is to request ADEM hold a public hearing, Fuller said, and he asked the commission to request that from the department.
“I’ve seen our communities come together on many occasions,” Fuller said. “A year ago in March we saw everyone rallied around Beauregard.
“Well I think we have another example here. Thank goodness not yet the tragedy, and never will be the tragedy that Beauregard was, but the impact of this quarry, the people of Opelika and Auburn and Lee County have banded together to oppose this.”
The officials encouraged residents to write letters to ADEM.
Commissioners respond“I’d like to encourage each and every citizen here to submit a letter or a written request for a public hearing to ADEM no latter than 5 o’clock Feb. 20,” said Commissioner Richard LaGrand.
Commissioner Johnny Lawrence encouraged citizens to appeal to facts when they write their letters, not just emotions.
“Push the issues that ADEM responds to: air quality and water quality,” he said. “We can talk about economic impacts with the mayor, we can talk about all these other things, but the two things that they vote on when they decide on, if you will, are air quality and water quality.”
Lawrence made a motion to have an ordinance drafted by English and Martin to support Opelika and contact ADEM to request a public hearing.
Commissioner Robert Ham said that he believes the commission should discuss financial support with County Administrator Roger Rendleman before making that particular decision. Other than the financial matter, however, he made a second to the motion.
“I’d just like to say thank you to Mayor Fuller for taking some leadership in this,” said Commissioner Sheila Eckman. “How I got this gray hair was fighting a quarry, the one in Loachapoka 20 years ago.”