by Joe Schwartz
Facing opposition from the Raleigh Planning Commission and an organized campaign from neighbors, Hanson Aggregates Southeast decided Wednesday to withdraw its bid to purchase 170 acres and to rezone to property to expand its Crabtree Quarry operation.
Raleigh attorney Grey Styers, who represents Hanson, pointed to “current political realities,” in a letter to Raleigh City Council in which he informed that the company has decided not to buy the property, located between Duraleigh and Ebenezer Church roads and near to Umstead Park.
“We would love to see a vote and see it be voted down and send a message that hopefully this won’t come back,” he says.
“I’m looking forward to not having this hanging over our heads anymore.”
Emily Smith, a resident of nearby Oak Park West and member of blockthequarry.org, which led the campaign opposing Hanson’s expansion plans, says she was surprised and thrilled when she learned of Styers’s letter.
“They really were facing complete opposition at this point, and I think they sort of threw in the towel,” she said, pointing to the neighbors campaign and the fact that the Planning Commission unanimously rejected Hanson’s proposal earlier this month.
“I’m excited about not having to be rattled constantly by the blasting.”
Hanson began the process, their most recent efforts to expand their 80-year-old Crabtree Quarry operation, in November after securing an option to purchase the second phase of the Hamptons at Umstead development, which had paved roads and street names, but no buyers.
The company offered to drop a longstanding lawsuit against the city, which seeks to overturn the city decision preventing the company from expanding south, to provide the current pit for flood control and to allow a greenway to be built through the property.
But residents objected, concerned about noise and particulate matter from rock blasting, increased traffic and emissions from quarry trucks and the removal of trees and altered view. They also contended that rezoning the property from residential to industrial would violate the city’s 2009 Comprehensive Plan.
The decision provides reassurance for John Jones, president of Delta Ridge Townhome Association, which abuts the land Hanson eyed.
“It will help give our current homeowners confidence that eventually as time moves on they will be able to actually sell their properties,” Jones says.
“The main benefit is that due to the city’s decisions, we can have confidence that they are going to follow the 2009 Comprehensive Plan not just for our neighborhood but for other neighborhoods, too.”
Sig Hutchinson, a local greenway advocate who had pushed Hanson’s plan as a means to acquire the “holy grail” that would connect the last mile of the Triangle grid, says he’s optimistic the land can still be acquired.
“I think as a result of this too have developed a positive relationship with Hanson and, to that end, I hope we can leverage that relationship to possibly get something done,” he said. “One of the positives that has come out of all of this is that it has elevated the conversation about the importance of this connection.”