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City tables rezoning of vacant sand dunes

Dunes Properties owners are hoping to dig a borrow pit on 20 acres of vacant land in the sand dunes off Sands Drive. Before the company can start digging, however, it first has to get the property rezoned.

Dunes Properties owners are hoping to dig a borrow pit on 20 acres of vacant land in the sand dunes off Sands Drive. Before the company can start digging, however, it first has to get the property rezoned.

ALBANY, Ga. -- A request from a local business to rezone a piece of land in the sand dunes near Albany State University has been tabled after Albany City Commissioners said they want to allow university officials and the developer to hash out a possible deal for an adjacent piece of property.

The property in question is a vacant, landlocked parcel off Sands Drive owned by Dunes Properties. Owner Buddy Clark said his company owns a borrow pit next to the parcel and wishes to develop another such pit on the vacant piece of land after it closes the first one. A borrow pit is essentially a shallow surface mine used to excavate dirt used in construction. The current borrow pit is roughly 45 feet deep, Clark said, and is nearing the end of its life expectancy.

But before Clark and company can start digging a new hole on the vacant piece of property, the city must agree to change its zoning classification and grant a special approval at a separate meeting.

Clark has also entered into negotiations with ASU officials so if he gets the vacant parcel rezoned and approved and starts digging a new borrow pit, he will sell or deed the old pit site to ASU, which has plans to integrate the site into its long-range strategic plan, ASU President Everette Freeman said.

And while the Environmental Protection Agency has regulations on how to close a surface mine through a process called "reclamation," Freeman told commissioners he still needed clarity on whether Clark intends to fill the current hole before moving on to the next piece of property.

"The owner has brought to us a written agreement, but before we're prepared to finalize anything, some clarity on the future condition of the site would have to be provided," Freeman said.

Under existing EPA guidelines, Clark is required only to grade down the slopes on the borrow pit so for every foot in elevation that exists, the grade is 3 feet horizontally so mowers can safely operate on the slope.

Additionally, vegetation and other environmental controls would have to be added.

But it appears ASU officials would like to have the 45-foot-deep, 5-acre hole filled in before they'll accept it.

"The hole needs to be filled in," Freeman said.

If the deal goes through, it would not be the first time the city and ASU have managed to transform a borrow pit.

According to Clark, Albany Municipal Stadium -- home of the Golden Rams football team -- was built on the site of a former borrow pit.

The city will resume discussion of the matter at its Oct. 5 work session.