Frac sand mining is now permitted in Houston County. The County Board Commissioners Tuesday voted 3-2 against adding language in their current mining ordinance that would ban frac sand mining. A 4/5 vote was needed for it to pass.
A three year moratorium on frac sand mining expires March 5. In an attempt to curtail frac sand mines in Houston County, Commissioner Justin Zmyewski proposed adding language to the current mining ordinance that would ban frac sand or industrial mining.
Two weeks ago, the County Board unanimously approved adding that language so the County attorney could verify its legality.
Tuesday morning, three of the five commissioners voted against the ban language. The commissioners along with members of the planning and zoning commission discussed details of the ordinance for about an hour.
A 15 minute public hearing was allowed at the beginning of the meeting. Eight people spoke up,with the majority of them calling for a ban.
Commissioners Steve Schuldt, Judy Storlie, and Teresa Walter voted against a frac sand ban. Commissioners Justin Zmyewski and Dana Kjome voted in favor of the ban. Heated discussion took place after the vote, and three members of the public were escorted out of the meeting after disruptive comments.
The commissioners had three options: enact a ban, add regulations, or do nothing. Their vote essentially reverts the mining ordinance back to what it was in 1973, said commissioner Zmyewski.
That ordinance requires anyone wanting to mine sand, gravel, limestone or other materials to get a conditional use permit.
Zmyewski calls it a "free for fall old ordinance with unlimited frac sand mining at any scale or volume."
Commissioner Schuldt said that he looked at the ordinance and thought this was the "best way to go."
When asked why two weeks ago he voted to add the ban language to the ordinance but voted against that now, he said he regrets that decision and was overwhelmed by the public and Commissioner Zmyewski.
"It's a stacked deck. These people are overwhelming us. It's not the opinion of the entire county," added Schuldt.
Commissioner Zmyewski said he plans on bringing up a revised version of the ordinance to ban frac sand mining every board meeting, which is every Tuesday.
"This isn't the end of it. They have awakened the bear that's been sleeping," he said.