Sand pits approved by supervisors

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 29, 2007

COURTLAND—Two sand pits — one a source of bitter debate, the other marked by complete accord — can both move ahead after markedly different public hearings Monday.

Southampton County supervisors followed the recommendation of their Planning Commission by voting to grant conditional use permits for the two borrow pits.

Residents of the village of Sebrell and those who live along River Road failed in their fervent attempt to curb the controversial sand mining operation set to open on 8.14 acres of an 843-acre tract.

During the Board of Supervisors’ public hearing, those residents renewed their plea for the county to deny the permit on the grounds that dump trucks traveling to and from the farm would make the narrow road unsafe.

&uot;It’s a wreck waiting to happen,&uot; said Sebrell resident June Forrest. &uot;I pray you all will consider the safety of the community before you consider four or five people trying to make money.&uot;

Safety has been the main theme of opposition to the Sebrell landfill from the beginning.

John Burchette, who also spoke out against the permit request during a Planning Commission meeting, asked the board at least to limit the number of trucks that would be allowed to go to the site each day. If an accident happens between a loaded dump truck and another vehicle, he said, &uot;I don’t want it to be on my conscience.&uot;

Jerry Flowers, one of the owners of the property, claimed the borrow pit would have the least community impact of any operation they could have planned there. He also asked what difference there is between sand trucks and the log trucks, cotton trucks and other large vehicles that travel on many of the county’s narrow secondary roads.

The most strident opposition of the evening came from Newsoms Supervisor Walt Brown, who argued against the project on historical grounds.

Brown said the property includes part of what used to be known as &uot;Old Nottoway Town&uot; and had served as a burial ground for the Cheroenhaka Indian tribe, for which he serves as chief.

&uot;In all good conscience, there’s no way I could vote for this,&uot; he said. &uot;I have a problem when something negates the history of this county. It’s time for us to hold true to the history of this county.&uot;

Brown and Berlin-Ivor Supervisor Ronald West voted against a motion to grant the permit. Capron District Supervisor Moses Wyche, Boykins representative Carl Faison and Jerusalem representative Anita Felts constituted the majority that voted in favor of granting it. Chairman Dallas Jones did not vote Monday, but had supported it earlier in his position as a member of the Planning Commission.

Monday’s second sand pit hearing was mild by comparison with the first.

Seeking the right to remove sand from his Courtland-area farm to create an eight-acre irrigation pond, Jimmy Lee listened as Brown gave the project his blessing.

&uot;This one is used for an agricultural purpose,&uot; Brown said. &uot;I have no problem with it.&uot;

Jerry Flowers stuck around for the second public hearing to show his support for Lee’s request.

Noting that the trucks headed to and from the borrow pit would coincidentally pass his own house, Flowers said, &uot;I have no problem with it.&uot;

Supervisors unanimously approved Lee’s permit.