County to decide whether to appeal quarry ruling

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Shelby County officials may appeal a ruling in favor of the company planning a limestone quarry near Alabaster.

County Manager Alex Dudchock said a decision would be made soon on whether to appeal.

He also pointed to requirements posed by the county, which were not addressed in the court case.

Shelby County Circuit Court Judge Al Crowson recently ordered the county to issue a &uot;building permit&uot; to Middle Tennessee Land Development Company LLC.

However, according to Dudchock, &uot;What the court case was about to our belief was what (the company) had applied for, which was an electrical permit for a job site trailer.&uot;

He said the county currently has not received any drawings or plans for a building, plans that would be required for a building permit.

Ray Hamilton, manager of Development Services for the county, explained that what the county would consider a building permit would be a permit for the equipment and structures used as part of the quarrying operations.

He agreed with Dudchock that the request from Middle Tennessee Land Development Company was for an electrical permit for a construction trailer.

The quarry has been proposed in the Smokey Road area just outside the city limits of Alabaster and Montevallo.

According to Crowson’s order issued last Friday, upon presentation of a 911 address by the company, the county is to &uot;issue a building permit approving and in accordance with petitioner’s application dated May 5, 2005 and introduced as Exhibit Number 1 to the deposition of Ray Hamiliton.&uot;

It was further ordered that the Shelby County Planning Commission and the Shelby County Commission pay the cost of the court proceedings.

Developer, appraiser and broker Robert J. Dow said an electrical permit and a building permit are one in the same.

He said since the job site structure is a prefab building, all that would be required would be the presentation of the plans for that building.

Dow contends those plans have been provided to the county.

The quarry operation is being opposed by the cities of Alabaster, Calera and Montevallo as well as the Shelby County Commission.

The University of Montevallo has weighed in as well. UM filed suit against the company proposing the quarry based on environmental issues.

The city of Alabaster has hosted two public meetings in opposition to the quarry and currently offers a &uot;stop the quarry&uot; option on its Internet home page.

Dudchock confirmed that the county did receive the court order. However, he said he will meet with the county attorney, county staff and personnel and representatives from the Department of Development Services to &uot;determine our next course of action&uot; including whether to file an appeal.

Dudchock said the court ruling addressed one element relating to the permit application.

However, he said the county maintained three elements including fire marshal’s consent, a state of Alabama business license and 911 address.

All three elements were procedural and were stated in the county’s case, said Dudchock. He said there was also pending litigation between the University of Montevallo and the company based on the quarry’s potential impact on Ebenezer Swamp.

Dudchock said three water authorities in Calera, Alabaster and Montevallo also had concerns about the quarry’s impact on well water.

Dudchock said the county actually never denied the quarry an electrical permit but had &uot;delayed&uot; action pending the company meeting the necessary requirements.

He noted there is also a pending permit application with the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.

While Dudchock acknowledged the court system has ruled against the county in its due diligence, he said, &uot;We don’t know our next course of action.&uot; He said a decision would be made over the course of the week.

Dow said he was pleased with the judge’s ruling, indicating it was a good message to businesses in Shelby County that this has been treated as a routine permit application case.

Dow said Middle Tennessee Land Development Company has also filed suit against the University of Montevallo.

&uot;We feel like the University of Montevallo being a state agency is attempting to use the power of government to stop a legitimate business on environmental claims they themselves cannot substantiate,&uot; Dow said.

He said the company took the advice of geologist William H. &uot;Bill&uot; McLemore at considerable expense to drill a well in the center of the potential quarry site to a depth of 350 feet.

He said the result was that no water was struck. And Dow said the retiring McLemore, who served as chief of the water division for Georgia, has indicated that the location of the quarry is not in the same geological formation with Ebenezer Swamp or another swamp of concern to Calera.

According to Dow, any quarry in the state of Georgia had to come across McLemore’s desk for approval as to negative impact on water in the surrounding area.

He said the geologist indicated that in no way would the quarry affect the swamp