Quarry proposers want to be good neighbors

Published 5:58 pm Wednesday, May 20, 2009

White Rock Quarries President Jim Hurley said he and others in his company were in Vincent this week with one goal in mind.

“Our job was to listen,” he said.

Hurley and the others held a meeting Tuesday in Vincent to hear residents’ questions and concerns and present information to the community about their proposal to develop Vincent Hills, a quarry which would mine limestone on about 1,000 acres the company has purchased during the last two years there.

“If you noticed, none of us took notes. We were there to listen and to answer questions,” Hurley said. “We will take a couple of weeks to digest what we heard, then we will come back with a second phase of meetings, where we will get a panel of experts to address some of the concerns. We want to do this thoughtfully. We want to be reactive, but we want to do it right.”

Hurley said a number of things about the quarry proposed for Vincent sets it apart from what many think of when they think of lime quarries.

“This will be a rail quarry,” he said. “Truck traffic will be a miniscule part of this operation.”

Property the company has purchased for the quarry lies in between two rail lines, which will be used to transport the mined stone. Truck traffic typically associated with such quarries will not be an issue with the one planned for Vincent, he said.

Also, “all of the rail cars will be loaded inside of a building,” which he said would reduce much of the unsightly lime dust associated with some quarries, as well as cut down on noise.

The technology used by the proposed Vincent quarry, too, would be state of the art, Hurley said. That technology will include a “water suppression system,” which would also work to limit the amount of lime dust emitted into the air around the quarry.

The quarry will not be visible from the roadway, he said. The proposal for the quarry includes a 40-foot-tall earthen barrier around the property, and the use of modern, downward-directed lighting, which would be less noticeable by the quarry’s neighbors.

Most importantly, Hurley said, the quarry will bring 125 new jobs to Vincent when it is in full production.

“These will be local jobs,” he said. “We will bring in one or two management people to run the operation, but the rest of the jobs will go to people from here,” he said.

Increases in tax revenue to the town of Vincent could be $3.5 million in the couple of years, said Stephen Bradley of Stephen Bradley and Associates of Birmingham, a public relations firm representing White Rock and Vincent Hills.

“When you consider the town’s annual budget now is about a half a million dollars, that’s significant,” Bradley said.

Hurley said his company, which has been family owned since the late 1800s, will take whatever measures it needs to take to be a “good neighbor.”

In addition to jobs and tax revenue the quarry would generate for Vincent, he said the company has a strong record of taking particular interest in children and education in places where its operations are located and helping with those efforts.

“We will learn what is lacking and work to provide help where it is most needed,” Hurley said.

White Rock operates the single largest-producing mine in the country, which is located in Dade County, Fla. He said that mine has been in operation for more than 20 years, and is bordered on its west side by the famed Doral Country Club, which includes homes and estates valued from several hundred thousand dollars to several million dollars.

The process leading to the quarry becoming a reality is a long one, said Rob Fowler, an attorney with Balch and Bingham of Birmingham, which represents White Rock and Vincent Hills.

“In the best case scenario, if Vincent officials agree to rezone the land to allow for the quarry and other permitting goes well, it would be 12 to 13 months before construction would begin and several years after that before the quarry would be in operation,” Fowler said.