Raleigh settles 20-year-old quarry lawsuit, gets greenway link

ccampbell@newsobserver.comFebruary 10, 2014 

— City attorneys have settled a decades-old legal dispute with a Northwest Raleigh quarry that will restrict noisy mining operations and allow a sought-after greenway link to Umstead Park, Cary and Durham.

City Attorney Tom McCormick announced the agreement with Hanson Aggregates at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

“It’s good protection for the residents and a lot of benefits for the city,” McCormick said. “I never thought I would be able to do this, so it’s an exciting day.”

Under the settlement terms, Hanson will end operations at the Crabtree Quarry – on Duraleigh Road at Crabtree Creek – within 40 years. That’s welcome relief for neighbors who are often disturbed by blasts from the site, which was built in the 1940s to fuel the construction boom that eventually brought Raleigh’s city limits to the quarry itself.

After the quarry closes, the city will be able to buy the property for $10 and could flood the pit to address flooding issues downstream on Crabtree Creek.

“It addresses a lot of the concerns that neighbors have,” said City Councilman Bonner Gaylord, who represents the area. “There are going to be folks who wish we could have figured out a way to have the quarry (immediately) cease operation, but that just wasn’t feasible.”

In the meantime, Hanson has agreed to build a landscaped dirt berm on the north side of the quarry as a buffer for surrounding neighborhoods. Blasting will be limited to 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays, with exceptions for an emergency or “act of God.”

Hanson will also move its rock crushing equipment – the loudest element – into the bottom of the pit, where it will be more muffled, McCormick said. The company will be required to post blasting records online and use a lower-frequency sound for the back-up beeping of its vehicles.

The quarry’s entrance will move to the north side of the property to avoid traffic congestion on busy Duraleigh Road.

While it might seem like most of the concessions are on Hanson’s side of the dispute, company leaders say they’re happy to get an agreement that ensures the quarry’s future. Hanson also gets the city’s blessing to expand the operation on the north side of its property, though it won’t get to dig new pits to the south and west.

“The terms of this settlement provide the clarity the company needs to focus on our business and move forward with a more productive relationship with the city and the surrounding community,” Chris Ward, vice president and general manager, said in a news release.

‘Holy grail’ greenway

While residents along Duraleigh and Ebenezer Church roads can look forward to peace and quiet, the benefits of the settlement extend well beyond the neighborhood.

Raleigh will get an easement to extend the Crabtree Creek Greenway west to Umstead State Park, which has been called the “final unresolved link” in the Triangle’s greenway network. It will also get 7.46 acres for a nature park near the confluence of Crabtree and Richland creeks and a 0.96-acre easement to protect a stand of rare Catawba rhododendron.

The greenway link will mean Raleigh cyclists can access the state park without getting in their cars. “It’s the holy grail,” greenway advocate Sig Hutchinson said. “It’s the last link in the system.”

From Umstead, greenway users can access the Cary trail system and eventually Durham’s American Tobacco Trail. But first Raleigh will have to find $3.5 million for the trail, which had been diverted from a previous bond package thanks to the legal dispute.

“It’s not even on the current greenway map because so many people lost hope,” Hutchinson said.

Hanson filed the lawsuit years ago after the city blocked the company from expanding its operations to the south side of Crabtree Creek. The company also tussled with neighbors in 2010 when it tried unsuccessfully to mine property to the west.

McCormick said the city’s dispute with Hanson dates to 1985, but it only reached the court system years later.

“We’ve been working for years and years trying to come to a solution,” he said.

Campbell: 919-829-4802; Twitter: @RaleighReporter

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