RED SPRINGS — The attorney for a group of residents opposing the establishment of a sand-mining operation in the Philadelphus community is planning to appeal to the North Carolina Supreme Court last week’s Appeals Court ruling upholding Robeson County’s granting of a conditional-use permit for the operation.
“It’s not an automatic appeal,” said Gates Harris, the Red Springs attorney representing the Philadelphus Presbyterian Foundation Inc., a group of 10 nearby property owners and several other area residents. “The court has the choice of whether or not it will review the decision issued by the Appeals Court.”
The three-member Appeals Court ruled that Robeson County Superior Court Judge Robert Floyd acted correctly on Feb. 14, 2013, when he dismissed a lawsuit against the Robeson County Board of Commissioners. The lawsuit submitted by opponents of the sand-mining operation did not list Buie Lakes Plantation Inc., the recipient of the conditional-use permit, as a respondent to the legal action.
According to Harris, Buie Lakes was not listed as a respondent because the petitioners were uncertain if the company was a certified corporation in North Carolina and permitted to do business within the state.
The conditional-use permit issued by the county granted approval for Buie Lakes Plantation to move forward with its plans to establish the sand-mining operation in a Residential Agricultural zone located off Buie-Philadelphus Road. Plans include the construction of a $22 million processing facility to clean and remove iron from the sand that would be used to make solar panels. The operation is expected to bring into Robeson County $200,000 in property taxes each year, as well as create up to 30 jobs.
Opponents say they don’t think Buie Lakes will ever build the processing facility. They contend sand will be mined at the site and then transported to another location for processing. The operation could hurt the health of area residents, they said, as well as create hazardous truck traffic in their rural neighborhood.
Ricky Harris, Robeson County’s manager, said last week that the mining operation would have a “very positive economic impact” on Robeson County.
“Just look at the tax revenue that will be generated,” he said. “There will also be 10 to 20 jobs created, as well as jobs being provided by outside sources such as trucking companies.”
Gates Harris believes establishing a sand-mining operation in a residential area is counter-productive to Robeson County’s ongoing efforts to recruit quality industry.
“It puzzles my mind, and I just can’t understand, why the county would want to allow an industry to be put in a residential zone,” Gates Harris said. “This is counter-productive to economic development. Who would build a home in an area if they have to fear that the county will plop an industrial site down next to their residence?
“This will destroy the quality of life in the county and turn it into an industrial wasteland. This is not just about one zoning issue, but a bigger issue about quality of life … I have been an industrial recruiter for 40 years, and the county’s action will make this an undesirable place to live. It will make it impossible to recruit high quality industry because these companies want a good living environment for their executives.”
Craig Brewer, a managing partner in Buie Lakes Plantation LLC, was pleased with the Appeals Court ruling.
“I’m elated that we will have the opportunity to now move forward with our project in Robeson County,” he said. “We have been on hold. We’ll now get back on schedule, talking with investment groups and companies that need our product … . It’s been sad for the community that this has taken so long. We could have already had this plant up and running and people working.”