In the wake of resident complaints about gravel pits, the Morgan County Planning Commission is in the process of reviewing its master plan, land use management code, land use code, land use maps, code enforcement and conditional use permit (CUP) standards.
“We are in the middle of restructuring,” Councilwoman Tina Cannon said. “It is rare we do. County residents are strongly encouraged to participate in this process.”
“This is a big deal,” Cobabe said. “We want to make sure it is right.”
Cannon encourages county residents to request land use changes that provide for health, general welfare, safety, energy conservation, protection and promotion of air quality, transportation, urban development, prosperity, civic activities, aesthetics, historic preservation, and recreation, educational and cultural opportunities.
Residents can also request language that reduces the waste of physical, financial or human resources that result from either excessive congestion or excessive scattering of population as well as promotes the efficient and economical use, conservation and production of the supply of food, water, drainage, sanitary and other facilities and resources.
However, in a post to users of the facebook group Mountain Green Families Against Gravel Mining in Residential Areas, Cannon encouraged residents to keep requests based in fact and to provide evidence for suggested changes.
“The commission must use fact-based consideration for implementing changes to land use regulations,” she said.
While the planning commission hammers out potential changes throughout May, the Morgan County Council has final say on which changes will be permanent.
“Once approved by the county council, these documents will govern the legal land use within Morgan County,” Cannon said in the post. “The planning commission must follow these documents when making any decisions regarding land use. Businesses that operate in compliance with the code are legally entitled to do so.”
Referring to the review of CUP standards, specifically to those used in the 1998 permit for an Enterprise asphalt plant, Cobabe said the review is to “make sure they’re applicable, reasonable and help to ensure that businesses and other land uses do not negatively impact adjacent uses,” County Planner Bill Cobabe said.
Because Morgan County has never been put on notice by the Environmental Protection Agency to monitor air quality, county officials are hesitant to put air quality standards within county code and conditional use permit requirements.
“If you are operating an asphalt plant, and the concern is sulfur dioxide, the county is not in the position to monitor or enforce that kind of thing,” Cobabe recently told the Morgan County Council. “You would have to rely on a third party.”
Cannon said the county should get direction that would help them handle residents’ complaints of air quality.
“We have to find a way to educate the public that some of these things are being monitored, but not at a county level,” Councilman Austin Turner said.
“The public needs to go away knowing how to address the concerns. We need to make it clear how to address those concerns,” Cannon said. “It is not that we are ignoring them.”
The county council and planning commission are well aware of the residents’ complaints about several gravel pits throughout the county. That is why the planning commission is forming an ad hoc committee in Mountain Green.
This committee may contemplate removing the A-20 zone where gravel pits are now an allowed conditional use. Land previously zoned A-20 would instead carry a new residential sort of zoning designation that would not allow for future gravel and asphalt manufacturing.
County officials are quick to point out, however, that future zoning designations wouldn’t affect previously-granted permits.