by Lea Setegn

The Richmond Times Dispatch

November 27, 2002

DINWIDDIE Forty-five people at Eastside Community Enhancement Center last Friday night agreed they don’t want another quarry in Dinwiddie County.

But what to do next, and whether they can stop the county from issuing a conditional-use permit to Tidewater Quarries Inc., were topics they couldn’t agree on during the two-hour town hall meeting held by resident Geri Barefoot. “The handwriting is on the wall,” said Frank Kirks, who lives near the proposed quarry site in northeast Dinwiddie.

“Thousands of people are going to be affected by this. If 99 percent of them don’t show up at the Board of Supervisors . . . you’re just whistling ‘Dixie.'”

Tidewater Quarries, a Richmond-based subsidiary of Florida Rock Industries, wants to operate a granite quarry, an asphalt plant and a concrete plant off U.S. 1, near Interstate 85 and U.S. 460. Another quarry, owned by Vulcan Materials Co., has operated in Dinwiddie since 1959.

The 353-acre site where Tidewater wants to operate is at the end of Frontage Road, bounded by I-85, part of Hatcher Run Creek on the west, and part of Rocky Branch Creek on the southeast.

Besides Frontage Road, nearby residential streets include Blue Tartan Road and Frontage Court, along with sections of Dabney Mill Road, Duncan Road and Merten Lane.

The land, owned by G.B. Ragsdale and Frank E. Houseman, is primarily zoned for agricultural use. For Tidewater to operate a quarry there, the county has to approve a conditional-use permit for the facility.

Tidewater submitted its lengthy permit application in October, and the Planning Commission is scheduled to start reviewing it in January. The commission will determine whether the permit should be granted, then forward its recommendation to the Board of Supervisors for a final decision.

Although this process is expected to take several months, Barefoot and others believe they need to start speaking out now.

“To pursue any real action, we have to go before the Board of Supervisors and tell them we’re tired of beating around the bush. We want answers now,” said county resident LeRoy Ivy.

Barefoot, a Frontage Road resident who is also the Dinwiddie coordinator for Virginia’s Sierra Club chapter, organized last week’s meeting to educate residents about the effects the quarry could have on the area.

Concerns about the quarry are both environmental and historical. A geologist, a noise expert and an air quality expert spoke at the meeting, along with Don Lauter, a Prince George County resident and Civil War enthusiast who is concerned about the history that will be lost if the quarry is built.

“We cannot allow them to come in and change our quality of life,” said Michelle Parker, who lives near the proposed site.

The land that Tidewater wants is crossed with earthworks that were used during the nine-month Siege of Petersburg from 1864 to 1865. An archaeological study by Tidewater states that fighting there wasn’t significant, but Lauter refutes that claim.

“They simply ignored there are battlefields there,” Lauter said at the meeting. “I found 10 things in [the study] that are flawed, completely wrong.”

The quarry, if dug, also would threaten residents’ water supplies, said geologist David Sayres. Employed by Virginia Geotechnical Services, Sayres was not involved in Tidewater’s environmental impact study.

Mark Huber, of the national lobbying group Noise Free America, told the group the quarry will take away their peace and quiet. And Pamela Irwin, a Sierra Club employee, explained the air pollutants that could be generated by the quarry and plants.

TThe final speaker, Sierra Club regional director Glen Besa, urged the group to push the Board of Supervisors to vote against the quarry.

“You need to make the issue hot. You need to make public officials aware that this is important to you,” Besa said. “If a conditional-use permit is approved for this thing, you’re done.”

More community meetings will be held, Barefoot said. Dates for those meetings have yet to be set.

Contact Lea Setegn at (804) 524-9724 or [email protected]