Highway Committee has no authority to reroute quarry traffic

Published 9:52 am Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Residents along one county road who presented safety concerns regarding the reopening of a quarry in their community to the Highway Committee are being told the matter is not one the county has the authority to address.
During a November meeting of the Highway Committee, more than a dozen residents of Judge Ben Allen Road voiced their concerns with road safety and property values as Aggregates USA prepares to reopen a quarry that has long been out of operation. Some of those residents referenced litigation and other legal proceedings against the company by those in the community.
Resident David Bautista, who said he was speaking on behalf of himself and others who live on 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. He suggested the county set a weight limit for vehicles traveling the roadway.
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 Airport Road from Highway 91, then turning onto Judge Ben Allen Road to complete the trip to the quarry.
Another proposal suggested was to create a new road to the quarry through the Carter County Landfill, where heavy trucks are already part of the regular traffic.
The committee decided to look into the issue to see what, if anything, the county could do to resolve their concerns.
At Tuesday’s meeting, committee member Danny Ward reported back to the full committee on what he had learned.
The route through the landfill would be impractical, Ward said.
“Really there is no way we can do that. It would cost the county too much money,” he said. “You would have to fence off part of the landfill.”
Members of the committee also heard from Landfill Manager Benny Lyons, who reported he had spoken with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and it was that agency that said the landfill would have to be fenced into separate sections if non-landfill through traffic was allowed. “They were not real happy about the idea,” Lyons said regarding his conversation with TDEC.
After speaking with several members of the community, Ward said it was his understanding the community intended to continue with legal action involving Aggregates USA.
“There is really nothing we can do as a committee,” Ward said.
As the committee looked into the issue, Chairman Mike Hill said he sought the advice of County Attorney Joshua Hardin as to what was within the county’s legal authority and provided members with a copy of the e-mail from Hardin.
“I feel that the Judge Ben Allen Road issue rests solely on the issuance of the state permit. If the company is legally allowed to operate the quarry I am unaware of any method by which the county could prevent their use of the road,” Hardin said in the e-mail to Hill. “We can post signs warning motorists to watch out for the trucks and set the speed limit on the road.”
“When I researched this issue the only thing I came across regarding weight of the trucks would be action the county could take if the trucks were actually visibly damaging the road,” he continued.
Weight limits can be set for bridges, Road Superintendant Roger Colbaugh said, but there are no bridges on Judge Ben Allen Road, only drainage tiles under the roadway.
“The posted speed limit is 35 miles per hour,” Colbaugh said. “If the committee wants, they can lower the speed limit, or start the process to lower the speed limit, to 20 or 25, which would improve safety.”
According to Hill, the issue “was deemed a private matter, a civil matter, between the residents and the company. On the advice of the attorney, the committee did not take any action regarding the requests by the residents.
In other business, the committee voted to provisionally accepted two private roadways – Williams Lane and Town View Estates – the county road list pending the property owners deeding the appropriate right of way to the county.
The committee also denied a request by some residents of Herbert Taylor Lane in Stoney Creek to change the name of the road to Mango Lane.
During a public hearing on the requested name change, the committee heard from people on both sides of the issue and received two petitions – one in favor of the change and one opposed to it.
The road was named after the late Herbert Taylor, who was the first resident on it and who built the roadway more than half a century ago. Some residents asked the name be changed, stating it was a long and inconvenient address to use while others asked it stay the same to honor the man it was named for.
Ward spoke out in opposition to the change.
“Why should we change the name of a road that was named in honor of someone. When we name a bridge after someone do we come back in 50 years and change it?,” he asked. “Why are we as a committee even entertaining this? Just because someone wants the name changed is not a good enough reason.”
Changing the name could affect not only the residents, but the operations of Carter County 911, law enforcement officers, emergency medical services, firefighters, the postal service and delivery drivers, Ward said.
Ward made a motion to leave the name as Herbert Taylor Lane, which was seconded by committee member Scott Simerly. The motion passed unanimously on a vote.

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