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Currituck Planning Board approves excavation amendments

At their July 14 meeting, the Currituck County Planning Board unanimously approved text amendments to modify the extractive industry and accessory use standards for mining operations and minor excavations, such as ponds, with some adjustments.

Chairman Shay Ballance chose to remove himself from consideration of the amendments; Vice Chairman Garry Owens moderated.

The applicant, real estate appraiser Steven Craddock, presented his request to the board, seeking approval of revised language to require mining operations to have an improved direct access to major arterial streets (direct, easement or private right of way), remove extractive industry from the Heavy Industrial and Light Industrial zoning districts, remove Extension of Expiration Time Period language and require all expansions to go through the same process as a new permit.

“We want to make sure that the roads to where . . . these mines are . . . are protected,” Craddock said. Craddock mentioned that secondary roads, to which mines in Currituck County such as Thrasher Mine, Griggs Pit and Bayview Sand Mine are connected, are not subject to major damage.

“If the proposed language is adopted, the existing mining operations that were lawfully established would no longer conform to the adopted provisions in this amendment, rendering some active mining operations nonconforming,” stated the proposed amendment.

As for minor excavations such as ponds (less than one acre), Craddock asked to have all excavated material used on the subject property. Donna Voliva, assistant planning director, explained that most of time, private property excavation is done to obtain fill for septic or to fill a property’s low area. The proposed change is for small ponds to require that all material be used on site and remain on the property.

Three members of the public came forward, including Ballance. “I am in full support of this amendment as written,” he said. Ballance stated that one acre sand fencing gets abused as he has seen it in residential settings.

As for the extractive industry, he liked the idea that at least 200 feet of continuous pavement shall be required onsite starting at the point the access road intersects with a public street or highway unless such public street is not paved.

Ken Elliott, who manages mining permits for mines throughout 10 counties, disagreed. “I think it’s a mistake to disallow these mines to operate along secondary roads because secondary roads are the better location,” he said. Elliott felt as though industrial use off of a main highway would hinder the aesthetically pleasing nature of Currituck and the “tourist corridor” highways would disrupt the mining industry.

Board member Juanita Krause found issues with the wording around what would be required of property owners if they were to install a pond on an acreage less than one. “I do realize big trucks can cause more damage, however this does take away rights of the property owner to pay for the pond to be dug and pay to have that spread. They may have landscaping done already; this is putting something on their property that they may not need,” she said. “We’re not going to eliminate all damage.”

Craddock was open to inserting some new language to the portion dealing with pond excavation. He suggested inserting “primary purpose” instead of simply “purpose” before the “establishing of a pond or to acquire fill for the enhancement of the subject property,” to indicate that excavation would be taking place for a particular, specific useful purpose rather than to sell.

As for the addition that excavated materials “shall remain on the subject property,” Krause was not a fan. K. Bryan Bass suggested that following the statement, the ordinance could include: “Woody debris may be removed,” to not subject homeowners to large amounts of debris they may not be able to use.

After a lengthy back and forth between the board and Craddock, Bass motioned to approve the proposed amendment as written. Discussion followed, amending the motion to include language as discussed. With a second from Krause, the amended motion was approved unanimously. This concluded the board’s only item of business that evening.

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