The Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission tabled a petition to rezone land for a borrow pit at the corner of Islands Highway and Brigdon Road.
Dryden Enterprises Inc., the property owner, filed a petition to rezone four properties from R-1, single-family residential, to A-1, agricultural district, a combined total of 9.54 acres, for a borrow pit. The commission tabled the application because of water drainage concerns.
Trent Long of T.R. Long Engineering P.C. — who has been working with Claude Dryden, the owner of Dryden Enterprises, on the borrow pit — said the original intent was to sell the four properties to his family members for their future homes, but they decided not to build house there.
Dryden now intends to use the property for a borrow pit and use the dirt for his own properties and projects. After the dirt is excavated, the land would be reclaimed as a fish pond.
Long said Dryden started the borrow pit but has reached a point where a permit is needed and the land has to be rezoned. Planning Commissioner Phil Odom said a borrow pit of up to 1 acre is permissible without a permit. Once the pit reaches that size, the property owner has to file for a land-mining permit with the Environment Protection Division. The water pumped out of the pit is being drained into the existing ditch along Islands Highway, Long said.
Neighbor Ronda Durney spoke against the borrow pit and represented other neighbors who are also opposed.
“One major concern is that this has already started. There’s already a pit there. There’s already water that’s being pumped into the ditch. This is zoned residential. There’s nowhere for the water to go that’s being pumped,” Durney said.
She mentioned that she asked the county to clean out the ditch in front of her home — and being told that there wasn’t enough money or personnel to maintain the ditch — to illustrate her point that water being pumped into the ditch will not be maintained and monitored.
“If you people (the planning commissioners) go out there and look at that, either way, shortly down the road there’s almost no ditches,” Durney said. “That water is going to sit there. I don’t know where anybody expects that discharge to go.”
Her other reasons for opposing the petition include the pit being near historical sites, dirt being blown off the piles, the cutting of oak trees and the noise of trucks going in and out of the property.
Martha Dykes, another neighbor, has a borrow pit on her own property. She and her husband started their pit 13 years ago.
“When my husband first started digging his borrow pit, there were a lot of procedures that he had to go through. He had to get all his permits ahead of time. He had to get a land-disturbing permit from the state and had to get permits from the county. We could not pump water into the ditch on Islands Highway. At our expense, we had to dig a trench all the way from our part to Dorchester Village Road,” Dykes said. “I live just two driveways up, and I have seen the water coming out of that pipe, and I don’t know how long he’s going to be digging. My husband dug this one for probably 10 years. And we had a pump going 24/7.”
Dykes added that her daughter-in-law saw Dryden’s ditch half-full of water.
“My problem is that he’s already digging and there’s no permit,” Dykes said. “I think that what’s right for one contractor is right for another. He’s already digging. He has dump trucks going in and out and water coming out in the ditch and it hasn’t been rezoned. That’s my problem. If one contractor has to go through the extent to satisfy the county recommendations, laws and bylaws, then the other contractor should.”
Long said he agreed.
“That’s why we’re here. We did see he was putting the cart before the horse, and so we applied to EPD several months ago to get our permit and, as part of the process, we realized the zoning wasn’t correct,” he said. “The nature of his operation is not going to be
24 hours a day, 7 days a week, pumping water out of it. Mr. Dryden will go in there and dig some out, dry it out. The dirt is stockpiled in there now so it can dry out.”
Long mentioned that Dryden has a right to use the dirt that is already stockpiled.
Commissioner Andrew Williams took issue with the continued digging without the property being rezoned and proper permits.
“Once you found out from EPD that you had to get it rezoned, you all continued the operation and there was water that was pumped into that ditch. That’s what I’m concerned about. Which tells me that whether we approve of it or not, my intuition tells me that you all will continue on until whatever needs to get approved is approved,” Williams said.
LCPC Chairman Jack Shuman agreed with Williams that he was not pleased with the work starting before the rezoning, the continued work after and the drainage situation.
Long spoke about why the work continued before the properties were rezoned.
“What we did was submit everything to the state. We were checking with the state to see what was going on. As soon as we realized there was a zoning issue, we went ahead and filled out the zoning application. But where our mistake was, as soon as we realized it was a zoning issue, we didn’t stop. He finished up the work he was doing until he got to a stopping spot, instead of just stopping right in the middle. I haven’t been out there in a couple of weeks to look at the roadside ditch. I’m certainly going to look at that,” Long said.
Commissioner Timothy Byler also had a problem with the continued digging.
“Something you (Long) said a couple of minutes ago, ‘There’s nothing that precludes him from getting the dirt that he already set.’ It’s very easy from this side of the table to say, ‘OK, we need x yards of dirt. I’m going to keep digging until I get x yards of dirt and then I’ll stop. There’s nothing that says I can’t go and finish my project.’ So he positioned himself pretty well to do what he wants. It doesn’t feel right,” Byler said.
The planning commissioners had the option of approving the rezoning and disapproving the borrow pit. They decided to table the petition until they received answers to their questions from Dryden.
In other business matters, the commissioners approved a petition for Grace Baptist Church on Airport Road to rezone 4.5 acres from O-I, Office Institutional District, to O-C, Office Commercial District. The church wants to have a taller sign on the property and it’s zoning, O-I, did not allow for a larger sign.