Johnston County Commissioners have tabled a request by a Benson-area rock quarry to expand their hours of operation in hopes they can reach a compromise with nearby homeowners.
Martin Marietta Materials, Inc. asked Commissioners on Jan. 7th to approve a rezoning and special use permit to allow their quarry on Raleigh Road, just off Highway 301 near South Johnston High School, to operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week as needed. Company representatives said the NC DOT is requiring more contractors to do road construction and paving work at night. The quarry needs to be open at night, as needed, to provide materials.
The quarry is currently allowed to operate their equipment at night but is not zoned to allow trucks to transport materials out of the quarry at all hours.
Miranda McLean lives near the intersection of US 301 and Raleigh Road and has owned her property prior to Martin Marietta opening the quarry many years ago. McLean said noise from the quarry normally ends around 11:00pm each night and has seen trucks leaving as late as 11:30pm. McLean says she hasn’t complained before because “it is the price you pay for living in a growing county.” However, McLean said the quarry is primarily in a residential area and she wants to be able to sleep at night.
Donald Earnest, who has lives on Highway 301 near the quarry since 1975, said the quarry frequently operates until 10 or 11pm at night. “The conveyors keep you up all night. It’s metal against rock.” Earnest said he is not anti-business but said the quarry has never reached out to adjoining landowners to get their opinions. “I’ve never complained about it. It’s like David versus Goliath. I’m just looking for a compromise.”
Company officials said they want to be good neighbors and corporate policy prevents any blasting at night. The company is also in the process of making $7 million in improvements to the Raleigh Road plant.
Commissioner Vice Chairman Chad Stewart questioned why the company hadn’t met with neighbors prior to the meeting. He also questioned their community involvement.
Commissioner Tony Braswell said if Martin Marietta was unwilling to compromise with neighbors “this chamber can do it.”
Commissioner Butch Lawter expressed concern about the board placing restrictions on Martin Marietta’s hours of operation after the board unanimously approved a request in November to allow Hanson Aggregates Southeast to expand their Princeton quarry and also operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Lawter said it was placing Martin Marietta at a competitive disadvantage.
Stewart disagreed, saying the Benson quarry was different circumstances. No one spoke against the Princeton quarry expansion in November, while three residents did ask for a compromise with the Benson quarry.
“I want a compromise but I don’t want to tie their hands either,” Braswell said.
In a motion by Commissioner Braswell, the board agreed to table the rezoning and special use case until February. The board asked Martin Marietta representatives to meet with their neighbors and try and work out a compromise.
Stewart still questioned why quarry representatives hadn’t reached out to their neighbors before being asked to do so by the Board. “The outcome is not to stop it but to compromise,” he told several company officials who attended the meeting.
“The compromise is 9 hours of sleep,” the neighbor, Donald Earnest, told commissioners.