Midtown Raleigh News

Neighbors gear up to fight quarry expansion

A bid to expand a quarry in northwest Raleigh has stirred opposition from neighbors fearful of blasting noise and unsightly dirt mounds.

Martin Marietta has operated the Raleigh-Durham Quarry since the early 1980s. The company wants to expand to the north across Westgate Road, which would be realigned as part of the proposal.

The mining operation, company officials say, would be confined to a fraction of the 97-acre site. Earthen berms of up to 80 feet would shield the activity.

A crowd of more than 100 neighbors – clad in red shirts as a show of unity – attended a City Council meeting last week to protest the plan. The council did not vote on the issue. A review by the planning commission is under way.

Quarries provide crushed stone, sand and gravel for highways, sidewalks and buildings. By locating near high-growth areas, quarries can offer lower fuel and hauling costs.

Company officials met with neighborhood groups, the Wake County school district and officials from nearby Raleigh-Durham International Airport, said Lacy Reaves, a Raleigh attorney representing Martin Marietta.

“We believe this is a very reasonable request,” Reaves said.

The expansion would result in a “100-acre landfill and dump” in a populated area, said Ben Kuhn, a Raleigh attorney representing neighborhood opponents.

“This is a very precedent setting case,” Kuhn said. “If approved, it would fundamentally change the nature and character of this area of Raleigh.”

Erika Helms said her family moved to the Wyngate neighborhood three years ago.

“We never knew anything about the quarry,” she said. “Maybe that was our fault. We were new to the area. We were there for a week, and I thought we were having an earthquake.”

The proposed expansion doesn’t sit well with at-large Councilwoman Mary-Ann Baldwin.

“What they’re presenting really isn’t acceptable,” she said. “When I think about those eight-story mounds, and I think about it being my neighborhood, that would really bother me.”

Baldwin added, “If there were to be an agreement reached, there’s a lot more work that needs to be done.”

The city dealt with a controversial quarry case last year. Hanson Aggregates Southeast withdrew a bid to expand at its North Raleigh quarry following protests from hundreds of neighbors.

The proposal from Martin Marietta would limit blasting to an 8-acre area, with the remaining 89 acres used for storage of overburden, which is dirt and low-quality rock.

Based in Raleigh, Martin Marietta operates more than 285 quarries and distribution facilities in 27 states, the Bahamas and Nova Scotia. The company has more than 270 employees in the Raleigh area.