By DOTTY NIST
Walton County is limiting a proposed fill dirt pit operation to excavating no more than five acres at a time, with each portion to then be reclaimed and planted in native vegetation.
Proposed reclamation plans for the business, Azland Mining, were discussed by the Walton County Technical Review Committee (TRC) on April 2, along with other aspects of the proposal.
Azland Mining CEO and owner Lee Perry said he would eventually excavate 67 acres of the 207-acre site. The property is located off Ed Brownfield Road, north of Rock Hill Road. About 20 acres of the property is classified as Estate Residential and the remainder is Large-Scale Agriculture.
Currently under review by the TRC, the pit proposal is to be considered for approval as a special exception by the Walton County Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA), not by the Walton County Planning Commission or the Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC). No date has yet been set for the ZBA’s hearing of the proposal.
At the April 2 TRC meeting, Walton County Planning Manager Lois La Seur stated that Perry’s reclamation plan would be adopted as part of the development order for his property.
Perry said his plan would include saving top soil as each five-acre portion was excavated, then putting that top soil in place on the excavated property and bringing the property back to a pasture condition with plantings.
He said he would not be bringing in any material in conjunction with the reclamation, just the plants that would be part of that process. Over two million cubic yards of fill dirt are to be removed from the property over a 20-year period if the proposal is approved.
In response to a question from attendee Anita Page, Perry said the depth of excavation would average 10 feet for the property but that it could reach 30 feet of depth in some areas. Page was concerned about how reclamation could work in areas where excavation went down near the water table.
“What’s going to grow?” she asked.
“We’ll do some research and find out,” Perry responded.
La Seur noted that there is a requirement to leave 70 percent of the property as open space. Perry asked if reclaimed property would be counted as open space. La Seur said that it was her understanding that it would, but that she would verify that.
County staff recommended that the applicant place a six-foot fence around the entire area to be excavated to mitigate impacts on homes in the vicinity. Residential uses lie within less than half-a-mile from the pit property.
A wet detention pond is planned for stormwater treatment on the property and to handle peak stormwater storage. A vegetated and stabilized berm is being required between the excavation area and the undisturbed areas and 50-foot wetland buffers.
The applicant has also agreed to a place a 50-foot-deep vegetative buffer of planted pines around the excavation area.
The BCC recently directed county staff to require best management practices (BMPs) in reviewing special exceptions applications such as the Azland proposal. Staff requirements and concerns are being dealt with at the TRC level prior to the proposal moving to the ZBA for final consideration.
The TRC directed the applicant to return with a detailed reclamation plan and additional information on drainage issues in connection with the proposal. The proposal was tentatively placed on the TRC agenda for April 16. However, it may be necessary to delay the additional hearing on the proposal two weeks past that date if Perry’s consultants are unable to have all that information available in time.