A rock quarry across from the Carolina Trace community in southern Lee County appears far more likely following a Thursday ruling by the North Carolina Supreme Court.

According to the court’s website (page 2 in the link), it denied and dismissed as moot, respectively, “petitions for discretionary review” by Lee County government and a group of residents near the proposed mining facility. Those petitions were filed with the court following a ruling in December 2017 by a state appeals court panel that the Lee County Board of Adjustment acknowledge the developer of the quarry had met requirements which would allow the project to move forward.

Thursday’s ruling essentially means the county will be required to issue a special use permit to Little River LLC, the company developing the quarry, after which it could begin development.

It was unclear, however, whether opponents of the quarry have any further recourse in federal court, or if the county Board of Commissioners or the group of residents had any desire to continue the fight. The Sanford Herald reported in January (subscription required) that the county had already spent nearly $45,000 fighting the proposal.

The quarry has been controversial for more than three years now. Trace residents defeated a proposed quarry from a different developer that would have been in the Sanford city limits back in July 2015. A month later, a lengthy process began which eventually resulted in the county’s Board of Adjustment denying the special use permit on a 4-1 vote (subscription required) which has been the subject of litigation since.

Public sentiment has been largely in opposition to the quarry. The multiple adjustment hearings were standing-room-only affairs attended by hundreds people, mostly residents of Carolina Trace and other communities surrounding the proposed quarry, expressing worries about the environmental and economic impact of such a project. Additionally, a “No Little River Quarry” website links to a petition with more than 600 signatures and 300 comments.

And while Little River developer Ray Covington had sought in the adjustment hearings to allay concerns about the project’s environmental impact, his petition to the appeals court argued that opponents had no legal standing to oppose it. The appeals panel rejected that part of Covington’s petition in December.

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