Judge’s ruling: No quarry

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 5, 2006

Shelby County Circuit Judge Hub Harrington has ruled in favor of the University of Montevallo in a trial on whether a limestone quarry can open near Alabaster.

Harrington&8217;s ruling stops Middle Tennessee Land Development&8217;s plan to dig for limestone at an 80-acre site off Shelby County 12 in Alabaster.

The judge sided with UM&8217;s contention that the quarry would be an unreasonable use of ground water and a private nuisance.

&8220;We are pleased with the thoroughness of Judge Harrington&8217;s analysis,&8221; said Philip Williams, Montevallo president. &8220;We have exciting plans for Ebenezer Wetlands, and we are anxious to proceed with those initiatives.&8221;

However, Harrington did say that the quarry could begin operations if any future development ever degrades the value of Ebenezer Swamp.

Harrington said his purpose was solely to protect the swamp and added that the quarry was an otherwise legal business.

Montevallo&8217;s Foundation had worried the swamp, used for research, would essentially &8220;dry up&8221; if the quarry was opened. The proposed quarry and swamp share a common underground aquifer.

&8220;Our concern is loss of swamp, loss of habitat. You alter the physical circumstances and you change the swamp,&8221; said Mike Hardig, associate professor of biology at UM. &8220;You alter it enough and you lose the swamp.&8221;

The University&8217;s plans for the swamp include a boardwalk and nearby research center.

Still, Robert Dow, part owner of the quarry, said earlier this summer that the quarry would not have any negative impact on the wetlands. During the trial, the developer&8217;s expert witnesses testified that because water in the area flows from east to west (away from the swamp), there would be no potential for damage.

Middle Tennessee has not announced whether they plan to appeal the decision to the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals.

Harrington&8217;s ruling comes 14 weeks after the University and Middle Tennessee Land Development wrapped up their cases. The case that was initially filed in the spring of 2005 had three counts, but Harrington dropped one that said the quarry would be a public nuisance. The judge&8217;s writing opinion is expected later this month