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Proposed sawmill denied

by Tom Chillemi

Would you want to live next to a sawmill?

That’s the question asked by Jamaica District supervisor Wayne Jessie on June 6 as the Middlesex County Board of Supervisors (BOS) pondered a special exception application for a sawmill in a Low Density Rural zone. 

The proposed site on Moss Swamp Road off Route 17 near Warner is 600 feet from the home of Donna Owens, who along with neighbors opposed the special exception.

Often it’s hard to hear supervisors in the boardroom as they discuss issues. That was not the case when Jessie made his motion to deny the sawmill, citing noise and dust issues.

“It’s only fair to think about the person living next door,” Jessie emphatically told his fellow board members. “Put yourself in that person’s shoes. Would you want this right beside you?”

At the May 2 meeting and public hearing the BOS asked applicant PTR International to address noise issues raised by Owens.

PTR’s sound study had the building oriented incorrectly, but that did not affect the study, said the applicant’s consultant, Jordan Morgan of Acoustical Solutions of Richmond. Morgan attempted to show that noise from the machines in the proposed building would be diminished as it traveled away from the site, and would be “barely audible” inside Owens’ residence.

Morgan also contended the county’s noise ordinance is “subjective.”

Owens pointed out the study did not consider heavy equipment and truck noise that would be generated outside of the building.

Pro business
Pinetop District supervisor Chip Holt said he is “pro business,” adding that when industrial zones are next to residential zones there will be similar problems. Holt suggested PTR International representatives and the neighbors get together to try to work out their differences. “I would want to exhaust all possibilities before turning away business from Middlesex,” he said.

Jessie said he also supports business and argued there are “valid” locations for a sawmill, but the Moss Swamp Road site is not a good location, according to the Middlesex Comprehensive Plan.

Voting to deny the special exception were Jessie, Saluda District supervisor Pete Mansfield and Hartfield District supervisor Bob LeBoeuf. 

Holt voted against the motion to deny. 

posted 06.14.2017

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