VERONA — The Augusta County Board of Zoning Appeals agreed to allow a closed quarry in the county’s Riverheads District to reopen to mine stone for planned Interstate 81 improvements.
The quarry, on more than 86 acres owned by Spottswood Farms LLC, is on the east side of I-81 near Spottswood Road.
A public hearing on the permit request from John Wilkinson, agent for the quarry’s owner Appalachian Aggregates, was held May 2. The board made no decision at that meeting and tabled the issue June 6.
The quarry’s previous owner, Pounding Mill Quarry Corp., recently sold the operation to Appalachian Aggregates, which was required to obtain a new permit.
The board tabled the request previously to consider a number of issues, including county planning staff concerns of how heavy truck traffic, noise, lights, dust and other impacts of the quarry operation might affect neighboring properties.
Pounding Mill Quarry received a special-use permit in 2003 for a planned 1-81 widening project that was not approved and the mining operation never started at that time, according to county staff.
The board set out more than 20 operating conditions for Appalachian Aggregates, including a requirement that a reclamation plan for the site once mining is complete be submitted to the county, and that each phase of work be reclaimed as soon as possible. Hours of operation are limited to 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7 a.m. to noon on Saturdays, with no Sunday hours.
Mining also is not to begin any sooner than seven months before the expansion and widening of I-81 starts.
During Wednesday’s meeting, Board of Zoning Appeals member Steven Shreckhise advocated for an additional limit on how many miles trucks from the quarry, which is south of I-81’s 213 exit, could haul stone for I-81 work. The board agreed, setting the limit to 20 miles in either direction.
“We don’t want to leave it open-ended,” Shreckhise said.
Kevin Andrews, a consulting hydrologist from the Bluefield-based firm of Marshall Miller & Associates, told the board that should the quarry’s work negatively impact the water of any neighboring wells, the state will require that those impacts must be mitigated.
Mitigation could include drilling new wells for the affected property and providing bottled water to residents until a new source is ready.
In Virginia, the state Department of Mines Minerals and Energy is responsible for overseeing quarry operations.
Board members also noted the concerns that had been raised about stone trucks traveling through residential neighborhoods. But, they said, no matter which quarry receives a contract to do work on I-81, trucks will be accessing residential streets before getting to the work site.
On the quarry’s second request, the board declined to grant a variance from the required setback in the area between the quarry and the interstate.
Virginia code requires a 200-foot setback between mines and adjacent property owners. Appalachian Aggregates sought to reduce the setback to the west of the quarry, parallel to the interstate, to 125 feet.
Wilkinson, during a public hearing, told the board the setback would allow the quarry to create an access road for its trucks.
“We don’t want to go any farther north than we have to,” he explained.
Planning staff, however, recommended that the request not be granted, saying that no specific hardship had been identified as defined by the state as justification for a variance.
Board members also cited a concern that pushing quarry activities closer to the interstate might create an unnecessary safety issue in cases of vehicles crashing off the roadside.