Residents along county road protest passage of dump trucks
Published 10:07 am Wednesday, November 5, 2014
Several residents along one county road are concerned with safety and property value issues as a sand quarry operation long out of service prepares to reopen.
On Monday night, more than a dozen residents along Judge Ben Allen Road voiced their concerns with the safety of the road and what the quarry operations and increased traffic will do to their property values.
“Judge Ben Allen Road is a residential neighborhood of the first order,” said David Bautista, whose home is on the road. “It makes no sense to send dump trucks through this neighborhood.”
Many of the residents who spoke during the meeting Monday cited concerns for safety due to the road being narrow and curvy. Bautista said the narrowness would make it difficult for a vehicle traveling on the road to pass safely a dump truck headed in the opposite direction.
One resident, Michael Verbonitz, said he was concerned with possible damage to his property from the large trucks and the debris that could fly out of the truck beds. He said he was also concerned with the value of his property being reduced, adding he spoke with one realtor who estimated his property value could be reduced by as much as $100,000.
Bautista, who said he was speaking on behalf of himself and other residents of the road, asked the highway committee to post signs requiring the trucks from the quarry to use an alternate route along Minton Hollow Road. He asked the committee to ban trucks from using the Judge Ben Allen Road route to the quarry and also asked the committee to approve placing signs requiring the trucks to cover any loads prior to transport.
The alternate route would have the trucks turn off of Highway 91 onto Minton Hollow Road, then turn right on Rocky Branch Road, then travel along Newton Road before turning onto Judge Ben Allen Road for a short distance to reach the quarry. The current route to the quarry has trucks turn onto Judge Ben Allen Road from Highway 91, traveling the length of Ben Allen to the quarry.
“What about the other route?” committee member Danny Ward asked. “Won’t those neighbors be mad we’re sending the traffic through there?”
Trucks traveling to the quarry would not be considered through traffic, Road Superintendent Roger Colbaugh said, adding that he did not think the county legally could prohibit the dump trucks from using Judge Ben Allen Road to reach the business.
Several residents said their concerns began more than a year ago when Aggregates USA first proposed reopening the quarry and that in that year, nothing has been done to alleviate their concerns.
At one time, a the county looked at a plan to cut a new road to the quarry through the back side of the Carter County Landfill, County Planning Director Chris Scheuttler said, but the county determined the plan would be too costly. According to minutes of a Highway Committee meeting held May 13, 2013, Scheuttler told the committee the cost of opening a new road to the quarry through the landfill would be about $750,000.
Bringing the quarry traffic through the landfill would “be a nightmare,” county landfill manager Benny Lyons said. The proposal would create two entrances to the landfill and both would need to be secured, he said.
The minutes from the May 2013 meeting show committee member Charles Von Cannon made a motion asking the committee not to sanction the reopening of the quarry. The motion failed due to a lack of a second.
During Monday’s meeting, Von Cannon once again voiced his disapproval of the quarry, calling it a “scar on the mountain side” and saying it will not bring enough revenue to the county to offset the reduction in property tax collections due to decreased property values.
The committee Monday voted to table the issue and refer it to County Attorney Joshua Hardin to see what the county’s legal options are regarding the roadway and the request by the residents.
The minutes also note that Aggregates USA had offered to pay the county to widen the road, but several residents at the meeting spoke against widening the road and the committee voted 7-1 to leave Judge Ben Allen Road as is.
“We don’t want a freeway,” resident Russell Tarvis said during Monday’s meeting.
The quarry on Judge Ben Allen Road has been there for nearly two decades.
“American Limestone was there about 18 years ago, and they used that road without any issues,” Aggregates USA manager Jim McGill said. “We offered to widen the road, but the residents asked the county to reject our proposal.”
According to McGill, work at the quarry has been ongoing for more than a year to prepare the site to reopen. Shipments of product from the quarry could begin before the end of this year.
Aggregates USA is based in Alabama and operates several quarries in three states, including 11 sites in Tennessee. The company also operates the quarry in Watauga.