Plans for Sebrell sand pit delayed

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 21, 2007

COURTLAND—The owners of an 843-acre Sebrell farm agreed last week to put their plans for a sand pit on hold, pending suggestions on how to make the project safer for the surrounding community.

As a gesture to Sebrell residents who expressed reservations about the truck traffic the project could attract to the area, the Southampton County Planning Commission tabled a conditional use permit request that would have allowed the local men to open a borrow pit on up to 46 acres of their property.

After hearing their neighbors’ worries regarding the potential for hundreds of dump trucks that would have to use the narrow, winding River Road to reach the sand pit, Mike Marks suggested that planners take the steps they considered necessary to &uot;make it safe for the community of Sebrell.&uot;

Marks and his partners, Robert Marks, Robert H. Pope and Jerry Flowers, own the farm and have worked with the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy to plan a sand-mining operation on about eight acres of the property.

&uot;We would like to try to get our value out of our land,&uot; Pope told planners at the beginning of last Thursday’s public hearing to discuss the conditional use permit request.

The enterprise would operate from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, employing two people, he said. It would be located in the woods, well off of River Road and a little more than a mile from Route 35.

It was the location of the project along one of the county’s small, rural secondary roads that caused opponents the greatest concern.

The narrow lane and the hundreds of trucks that could use it in a year’s operation of the sand pit &uot;are a recipe for disaster,&uot; said John Burchett.

He said two 90-degree curves on River Road are dangerous enough for the traffic that currently uses the road, without even accounting for the large dump trucks that would be associated with a borrow pit.

&uot;If this sand pit had access to Route 35, I wouldn’t be here,&uot; he said.

&uot;They say it’s no impact,&uot; added Sebrell resident David Fowler. &uot;But it’s a whole lot of impact on everybody, even in a small community like Sebrell.&uot;

Planning commissioners acknowledged citizens’ concerns and debated the steps they could take to protect the residents of the dozen or so homes that would be directly impacted by the sand pit’s operation.

&uot;I still am very concerned about the safety of that community,&uot; Commissioner Michael G. Drake commented.

After learning that they did not have the jurisdiction to reduce the speed limit on River Road, commissioners directed Assistant County Administrator Jay Randolph to contact the Virginia Department of Transportation for an assessment of the situation and recommendations.

In October, planners will reconsider the conditional use permit application in light of those recommendations.