Public doesn’t approve of mining ordinance draft

Sand mining in Houston County has been a hot-button issue for many years now.

Tuesday night, the Planning and Zoning Commission heard pubic comment on a new mining ordinance in the county.

The Mineral Extraction Ordinance comes after three years of work and studies done by committees in Houston County.

Among many things, the ordinance puts cubic yard limits on sand and aggregate mining in the county.

At Tuesday night’s public hearing, both miners and people against mining spoke together. About 20 people told the Planning and Zoning Commission, they do not like this ordinance and it needs to be redone.

One of the public’s biggest concerns: how vague the ordinance is.

“There is no definition that distinguishes silica sand that is used for fracking purposes versus construction sand that is used ordinarily around for all the needs of a growing county. We need a definition and we need to craft an ordinance around those definitions,” said Bruce Kuehmichel, Houston County resident.

The Planning and Zoning Commission said there was no distinction between silica sand or industrial mining and construction mining because the ordinance puts a limit on the type of sand that is being mined, not its use.

The commission will now review the public comments and begin discussing the future of this ordinance at its next meeting later this month.

“And we will have the study committee here that actually came up with this draft proposal, they will be here also, and we’ll be calling upon them for testimony as to why, what was the reasoning you had the wording in here this way and so forth,” said Dan Griffin, a Houston County planning and zoning commission member.

The one thing heard from many people after the public meeting was how surprised they were that both sides agree with one another.

The overwhelming message to the planning commission was go back to the drawing board with this ordinance.

The commission’s next meeting is Jan. 22. From there, it begins discussing revisions to the draft before presenting the ordinance to the county commissioners.