The Statesville City Council approved a new special-use permit for Martin Marietta’s local quarry operation on Wednesday evening after the company reached a tentative agreement with an opponent to limit hours of operations at the site, to scale back the height of some equipment and to make other concessions.

More than two hours into a quasi-judicial hearing that looked like it would go well into the night after about a dozen witnesses were sworn in, Mayor Costi Kutteh recessed the hearing so lawyers for Martin Marietta and developer James Pressly, the most vocal opponent of the quarry expansion, could meet for “10 minutes” to discuss the matter behind closed doors.

About 90 minutes later Craig Justice, who represented Pressly, and Martin Marietta lawyer Tom Johnson informed the council, which was sitting as a jury in the case, that they had reached the agreement.

Justice credited Councilwoman Doris Allison, who had urged the two sides to find a compromise, for sparking the negotiations.

Under the terms of the agreement, Martin Marietta will:

♦ Limit hours of operation of the second crushing plant to 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays and 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays;
♦ Use strobe lights instead of beeping signals on company vehicles after dark;
♦ Erect a 12-foot berm with plantings near the residential development planned by Pressly’s company before the expanded operations begin;
♦ Acquire new environmentally friendly equipment that produces less noise and dust;
♦ Limit access to its property via Bradley Farm Road to emergency vehicles and vehicles required to maintain or inspect the berms;
♦ Not construct or operate an asphalt or concrete plant on the property;
♦ Preserve the natural tree buffer on the Staples property if and when it acquires it; and
♦ Reduce the maximum height of its facility from 80 feet to 70 feet.

In exchange for those conditions, Pressly agreed to drop his objection to the rezoning and special-use permit and to concede that Martin Marietta had satisfied the legal requirements for both.

The planned $40 million expansion will increase the size of Martin Marietta’s 278-acre operation by 53 acres by adding five new parcels, portions of which will be rezoned for heavy industrial use.

Among the terms imposed by the city, Martin Marietta cannot conduct any blasting activities within 1,000 feet of any structure not owned by the company and cannot conduct extraction activities on the newly acquired properties.

Prior to the recess and negotiations, the outcome of the hearing was far from certain.

While questioning Planning Director Sherry Ashley, Justice raised doubts about whether the city had followed state law or its own regulations related to public notices and the planning board’s handling of the matter.

If the City Council had approved the special-use permit without the concessions Justice secured, the matter likely would have been tied up in the courts, possibly for years, he said.

Although the council did not vote on whether Wednesday’s hearing should have been halted and the entire process began anew — which seemed to be the outcome Pressly wanted, at least one council member said that was the best path following legal arguments by Justice and Johnson.

“The rules are the rules and we did not follow them,” Councilman John Staford said. “We should have hit reset.”

Council members are scheduled to approve the second reading of the rezoning request on this issue at their next meeting.

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