By Emily Bialkowski
Under the “unfinished business” portion of the Feb. 11 Houston County Board meeting, Commissioner Teresa Walter updated the board on a conversation she had with the county’s land use attorney, Jay Squires, who advised the county to finalize a frac sand mining ordinance.
“We only have one year on this moratorium and it has been suggested we aggressively pursue completing an ordinance in case a ban doesn’t legally go through,” Walter said.
“He (Squires) was very concerned that the EQB would not have language around for banning by the end of March 2015,” Walter said in a follow-up interview.
On Jan. 28, Houston County sent a letter to the state Environmental Quality Board asking for direction on implementing a frac sand mining ban. The board said at the time that they wanted every possible option available when considering frac sand, including a ban.
But, should a ban not be found legal, and the county not finalize a frac sand ordinance, the rule will revert back to what exists on the books today, Walter said, adding that current zoning laws don’t account for industrial-scale mining.
The matter is not about ag sand or road gravel, she pointed out. “We don’t want it to affect that at all,” she said.
No action was taken on Walter’s comments.
The last action on the matter dates back to April 2013 when the board disbanded the Frac Sand Study Committee “to move to the next level in order to keep the process moving forward,” as the motion stated.
The committee met for about a year to research frac sand mining and ceased meeting in November 2012 while county staff drafted a frac sand ordinance with Squires.
On Feb. 12, 2013, Squires presented a draft ordinance during a joint meeting of the Frac Sand Study Committee, Planning Commission and County Board. He shared with those in attendance some points he believed should be scrutinized. Follow-up on those recommendations ceased when the EQB started hosting meetings to evaluate frac sand mining issues across the state with the intent to help local government units navigate this controversial issue. Clear recommendations or model ordinances have yet to be offered by the EQB, who continues to meet on the matter.