My thoughts on Emmett Snead’s proposed gravel/sand pit in the Rappahannock Academy area (Clark’s Cut).

Right now, there’s a pending special exemption permit request going before the Caroline County Board of Supervisors that would allow a gravel/sand extraction (primarily sand extraction) on property located on Route 17 south of its intersection with Pepmeier Hill Road. The public hearing on the permit is scheduled for October 28th.

The land is owned by local farmer and small business owner Emmett Snead, who lives and works adjacent to the property.

Another gravel pit (mostly gravel at that location), called Hayfield, is located a hundred yards down the road just on the north side of the intersection with Pepmeier Hill Road. Hayfield was originally approved way back in 1972, without the terms and conditions that are present in the currently proposed permit.

Since I first heard about Snead’s gravel/sand pit several months ago, I’ve gone from opposing it, to being on the fence, to now supporting it.

One of the reason I’m now supporting the permit is due to the antics of the folks at “Friends of Tidewater Trail”, who oppose the permit. Some of the folks in the organization are so insane that they seem to think that gravel trucks are targeting them for assassination and trying to run them off the road constantly.

Seriously.

And if they’re not acting like bullies at a constituent meeting, they’re buying fear-mongering ads in the local rag (The Caroline Progress). Let me break this down into paragraph-by-paragraph analysis: [color in original]:

DON’T LET A DEADLY TRAGEDY HAPPEN IN THE TIDEWATER TRAIL CORRIDOR!

Last week, on September 30 at 7:25 AM, a Culpeper school bus was struck broadside by a pick-up truck on Route 3 near Lignum. Several of the 39 students aboard were taken to the hospital and treated for minor injuries. Both vehicles sustained extensive damage. But, it could have been much worse.

What does a gravel truck in Caroline County have to do with a school bus in Culpeper County? Even an ambulance chaser of a lawyer would have trouble finding causality between those two.

Imagine if it had been a fully loaded gravel truck weighing 60,000 pounds that hit the school bus instead of the pick-up weighing 4,000 pounds. The outcome would have been devastating. Who was at fault would be unimportant. Anguished mothers and fathers would be asking themselves how such a thing could happen. Could it have been prevented? But then, of course, it would be too late.

Wow, a 60,000 pound truck. I’ve only had one problem with gravel trucks, and that was getting behind two that were driving slowly one day.

Frankly, I’m more concerned about the 100,000 pound plus farm trucks that are carrying corn or soybeans. At least the people driving the gravel trucks are required to have a commercial driver’s license (CDL), unlike the farmers, which aren’t required by Virginia law to have a CDL (DMV, Code of Virginia § 46.2-341.4).

I’ve been in vehicles that have been run off the road by farmers. Will the Board starting requiring a special exemption permit for farming, so that I have a say as the vehicles on the roadway that affect me?

What about those bloody trash trucks on the road? Are we going to lock down Caroline County and let only those that have a permit drive on our roads?

What about those constant slow moving cars and SUVs that I get behind? I say we don’t let them into the county anymore.

By the folks at “Friends of Tidewater Trail”‘s standards, I can dictate exactly what vehicles end up on the road. It can be damned the property the people own, the taxes those folks pay, or the people they employ.

And as one volunteer fire and rescue person has said, at least he knows what to expect when he has to respond to a truck that’s involved in an accident. He said he doesn’t know what to expect with some of the folks commuting back and forth to Hampton Roads.

On Tidewater Trail in Caroline County, we face the same dangers every day when we have over 400 heavy trucks on a narrow, two-lane highway intermixed with school buses from all the local public schools, St. Margaret’s School, and Fredericksburg Christian School as well as more than 5,000 cars and pick-ups. Most of the major industrial truck traffic occurs during peak hours when all of the schools buses are stopping to pick up or drop off students and thousands of commuters are going to or coming from work.

What a lie! Since when did St. Margaret’s School — which is located in Tappahannock and is primarily a boarding school, for crying out loud — run school buses into Caroline County? And Fredericksburg Christian only runs school buses to Bowling Green, which isn’t located on Tidewater Trail the last time I checked.

The only school bus that operate in that area are two from Caroline County Public Schools. And they turn a 100 feet down the road from the proposed location of the gravel pit onto Pepmeier Hill Road.

And most of the gravel truck traffic doesn’t occur during the peak hours. You might have one or two trucks early in the morning taking stuff that wasn’t moved from the previous day’s work wherever it has to go; but most of the truck traffic is going to occur as the gravel is being removed from the ground. And that has to occurred when the workers are there, which is during the middle of the day. Duh.

VDOT has no authority over the approval of truck traffic that begins or ends in the Rte 17 corridor. Only the Caroline County Board of Supervisors does. They alone have the authority to approve special exception use permits for sand and gravel mines — or deny them. The new mine applying for a permit from the board on October 28 would add 120 heavy gravel trucks to Rte 17 in addition to the more than 400 trucks driving up and down the corridor today. Thats a 30% increase in truck traffic, if you can imagine. The next applicant for a mine would add another 200 more heavy trucks. And there are several mines lined up behind them. If any of them would be approved, you and your children would be lined up behind their trucks, or worse.

The 120 trucks from Clark’s Cut would only result in a miserly 2.3% increase in traffic on Tidewater Trail.

And what the next applicant does is irrelevant. Special exemption permits — just like rezonings — are supposed to be assessed and approved or denied on a case-by-case basis.

As a community, we have the luxury of stopping a major tragedy from happening — before it happens. If you are concerned, please take the time to e-mail, write or call your supervisors and let them know that we do not want public safety to be further jeopardized by approving more mines and trucks in the Tidewater Trail corridor. There are many reasons that gravel mines should never be permitted in the corridor, but none is more important than protecting the safety and welfare of our fellow citizens and our children.

Frankly, after reading that ad, I’m waiting for someone to yell out “Won’t someone please think of the children?” a la Helen Lovejoy on The Simpsons.

Their opposition can basically be summed up at this: “If the Board approves the permit, THEY’RE TRYING TO KILL YOUR KIDS!!11!!!!1”

Of course, for the folks at the “Friends of Tidewater Trail”, it’s more about them being able to control what other people do with their property.

If they could provide some credible opposition to this permit, I might still be opposing the permit. But alas, they can’t.

Here are some reasons to support the permit:

As part of the terms and conditions offered by Snead, he will provide $0.10 per ton of material removed for “for road improvements along the U.S. Rt. 17 corridor.” The estimated yield for the site is 2,000,000 tons, which means the county would be getting approximately $200,000. Snead has proposed giving $100,000 upfront to the county when the permit is approved, with the other $100,000 in five years when the permit has to go through renewal.

And when VDOT gets around to widening Route 17 to four lanes, Snead has offered a dedicated right-of-way to the state for road expansion on the property as part of the terms and conditions.

Snead has also offered to barrier the property well above and beyond what county ordinance and policy requires. Since there is an eagle currently nested on some of the trees by the river at the proposed location, Snead has gone so far as to agree to plant trees in that area that are used for nesting by prey of eagles, so the eagle has plenty to eat!

When the mining operation is done, which should take about seven years, the area will be reclaimed and now that the sand can has been removed, a vineyard or berries (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries) will be grown on the property. Current crop yields on the property are low already due to the existing sand and gravel. The depression resulting from the removal of the sand and gravel will be used as an irrigation pond:

The property shown on the proposed extraction area is extremely sandy and has a very thin topsoil layer. The field is subject to the slightest summer drought and Mr. Snead has experienced several crop failures in recent years. His hopes are to extract sand from the field, lower the elevation and create an irrigation pond in the center of the field. Topsoil as it becomes available (a by-product of commercial development at 1-95 & US Route 17 & US 1 area) will be back hauled to the extraction area and mixed with the sandy overburden (topsoil) along with Mr. Snead’s personal blend of compost. This topsoil blend will then be spread back over the disturbed areas in the reclamation process and produce a productive farm field. It is Mr. Snead’s intent to produce vegetable crops in this area, including grapes, blackberries and raspberries.

And here are some extras:

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