Slug: Done And Dusted: Quorum Court Passes Regulations to Filter Out Dust with Vegetation

FAYETTEVILLE―While the dust has yet to literally settle, Springdale residents will soon get to take in a fresher air and greener view near the quarry-stockpiled land at North Parsons Road.

In the midst of a heated discussion Thursday night, among members of the Washington County Quorum Court, Tim Graham, the co-owner of Northwest Arkansas Quarries, interruptedly quipped by saying, “While y’all have been here, sitting and talking . . . there has been democracy in the making.”

Graham, along with Brett Ralston, a Springdale resident who has been pushing for regulations on the quarry, agreed that planting trees along North Parsons Road would potentially obfuscate the view of the quarry and filter out its atmospheric dust.

The Quorum Court members, after deliberating among themselves and consulting Juliet Richey, the county planning coordinator, unanimously approved on a conditional use permit for the Northwest Arkansas Quarries.

“It can be done,” Richey said, “but, aesthetically, it wouldn’t make a big difference.”

Richey recommended that the county should check with landscape architects and engineers for professional planning of the trees as visual and dust screeners.

The origin of the debacle harks back to 2003, when Northwest Arkansas Quarries obtained county approval for a 120-acre quarry at 21202 Parsons Road. As the business grew in coeval with the area’s industrial development, during the boom years, the company continually stockpiled gravel on neighboring land.

“We stockpiled there because nobody said we couldn’t,” Graham said.

“The original large-scaled development plan at 120-acre [ of 2003] . . . didn’t specifically say where to put the rocks at the quarry,” said Quorum Court member Barbara Fitzpatrick. “Stockpiling is a common part of quarrying but it wasn’t an issue at the time.”

Indeed, at the beginning of the court’s deliberations, skepticism on how to impose regulations jurisdictionally was paramount.

“This is a very difficult decision,” said Quorum Court member Eva Madison to the disgruntled citizens in the audience. “You are approaching it like we have 100 percent discretion. I wish we did . . . because we have no authority against dust.”

However, as Quorum Court member Rick Cochran mentioned few moments later, “we do have the ability to revise the conditions on the permit―to get the quarry out of sight.”

According to Graham and Ralston and county attorney George Butler, such plan is legally feasible.

“The berms are already in,” Graham said, “and the vegetation are on them. I think if we would just go ahead and put trees again, and get along with the group, it would be the best for all of us.”

“This would make the area more aesthetically pleasing,” Ralston agreed. “We could turn this bad situation to one of the most beautiful areas in Northwest Arkansas.”

“Y’all spent way too much time―to me because I’m pretty simple-minded―on just a simple problem,” said Graham in a bonhomie tone. “I think the situation got blown out of proportion and got to take a lot of everybody’s time than it should have.”

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