Members of the Adairsville Downtown Development Authority (DDA) voted unanimously Tuesday evening to support a letter of opposition to a controversial mining proposal that — according to some City officials — may pose risks to the local water supply.
Per an application to the Bartow County Community Development Department, Cartersville-based Yellowstone, LLC is seeking the rezoning of 457 acres along Rock Fence Road from agricultural/forestry to mining, along with an amendment to the property’s land use classification.
According to the land use map amendment request filed by Yellowstone, LLC owner Galen McDaniel in April, the company seeks “to extract various minerals and mining products from the property.”
A development of regional impact (DRI) application for the project was submitted to the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA) on July 6. The submission contains no information on the estimated value of the project at buildout, nor an exact specification of how the property — then surveyed to be about 466 acres — would be used.
Adairsville City Manager Pam Madison raised several questions about the proposed project at Tuesday’s public meeting.
“The 400-plus acres that the commission has the mineral rights to of the large 830-acre tract is the aquifer area that serves Lewis Spring,” she said. “Anybody getting their water from the City of Adairsville could be impacted, and we also sell a significant amount of water to the Bartow County service area.”
Although the proposed property is technically in Bartow County, Madison said the proposed mining operation is less than two miles from Adairsville City Hall and certainly falls within the “radius” of the ADA’s scope as an advisory board.
Madison also aired concerns about the “vagueness” of the applications submitted to both Bartow County and DCA officials. She told members of the DDA that one Yellowstone, LLC representative indicated that the rezoned property could potentially be used as a landfill site instead of a quarry.
“There are a number of things he could potentially use, and all of those would be detrimental according to our engineers’ opinion letter we submitted along with the DRI," she said.
In addition to the DDA, Madison said Adairsville’s Historic Preservation Commission and Advance Adairsville — a 501(c)6 nonprofit the handles the City’s marketing and hotel/motel tax distributions — are also opposed to the proposed development.
“Once our water is potentially contaminated, you can’t unring that bell,” she said. “When we were looking at all of the advisory boards, obviously, it would have an impact on the types of developments that you would have in this area.”
At this point, Madison said the City is still in the dark as to what Yellowstone, LLC’s ultimate plans for the property may be.
“I think there’s limestone or rock or shale, there’s a number of different minerals he said is on that property,” she told DDA members. “But his application indicated no transportation impact, no impact to the water, because he said he’s not really sure what he’s going to do.”
Madison also said she was worried about the potential impacts of a large-scale mining operation in traffic in the area. She described the conditions near another Yellowstone, LLC operation along the Old Alabama Road and Paga Mine Road corridor as “horrid” and worried what a similar development may do to Rock Fence Road, Hall Station Road and Highway 140.
She said she asked a company representative how many trucks could be stopping by the site on a daily basis if the property is used as a landfill.
“He said at least 100,” Madison recounted. “They could all potentially look like Paga Mine, and that’s a lot of traffic coming through the city.”
Several businesses in and around Adairsville have likewise been vocal in opposing the proposed development. That includes Barnsley Resort President David M. Friederich, who stated in an open letter earlier this month that the resort’s “peaceful environment, job opportunities, prestigious reputation and economic contribution to Bartow County” could be jeopardized by a nearby mining operation.
“From a water perspective, our engineer has taken a section from a geological survey that was found that basically said the likelihood of well and spring pollution resulting from contaminants entering sinkholes is very high,” Madison said. “That Snow Springs area out there has a high propensity to have sinkholes with any type of mining operation.”
As of Wednesday afternoon, an online “No Mining on Rock Fence Road” petition had a little under 600 virtual signatories.
The rezoning and land use reclassification requests are scheduled to go before the Bartow County Planning Commission at a public meeting scheduled Aug. 3 at 6 p.m. at the Frank Moore Administration and Judicial Center, at 135 West Cherokee Ave. in Cartersville.
Bartow County Commissioner Steve Taylor is set to approve or deny the requests from Yellowstone, LLC at a public meeting slated for Aug. 5 at 10 a.m. at the same location.
Madison said that members of several advisory boards representing the City of Adairsville are expected to speak at the public hearings.
“I have shared this with some of our large industrial and commercial water users,” Madison said of the City’s letter of opposition. “If we can’t provide water, we won’t have economic development.”