Successful Rezoning Protects State Scenic Harpeth River From Potential Contamination
Harpeth Conservancy (HC) has focused on potential water contamination issues related to the McCrory Quarry, known locally as Hutton Lake, since 2006. HC’s involvement has included educating the public, encouraging participation in public hearings, submitting written and oral comments, and providing scientific expertise. HC has collaborated around these evolving issues with the impacted community, stakeholders, and public officials. As a result, the owners were able to develop a portion of the land that did not directly result in potential water contamination if they did not fill the quarry. Many local zoning ordinances enacted throughout the years ensured the owners would keep this promise to the community.
In the 2020-2021 legislative cycle, the owners worked with lobbyists to pass a bill preempting the local zoning ordinances that protected the quarry from being filled. This legislation passed the Senate but was blocked in the House by the local Representative Bo Mitchell. The House Bill 871 proposed:
“exempts open pit mines and quarries from local regulations when reclaiming a pit with fill material from a highway project, if operator complies with the Clean Water Act and other relevant state regulations.”
This Bill is likely to return in next year’s legislative cycle. If the bill passed, it would nullify the local ordinances protecting the quarry from being filled. The owners already received an Aquatic Resource Alteration Permit (ARAP), so without the zoning protections, they could proceed forward with a commercial fill operation upon passage of the Bill. HC opposed this ARAP and provided detailed comments on why it should not be issued.
Councilmember Dave Rosenberg responded to the threat of HB871 by requesting to rezone the property from an AR2a to a R80.HC supported this rezoning because it was concerned the current zoning would allow for a commercial operation to fill the quarry if local regulations were nullified. A commercial operation is difficult to monitor, and the profit motive increases the chances of contaminated soil and rock being used as fill. This contamination can seep into the groundwater and subsequently the Harpeth River, especially given the ARAP permit did not require a liner.
HC provided written and oral comments in support of this rezoning request, attended meetings around this issue, educated its members and the public on the issue, provided interviews to and had quotes used in the news media, and worked with the many stakeholders interested in passing this zoning request.
Upon its second reading, the Planning Commission voted in support of the zoning request. The final Metro Council vote was unanimous in support of Councilmember Rosenberg’s request to rezone the McCrory quarry property from agriculture to residential zoning. If HB871 is renewed, the quarry will not be able to be filled through a commercial operation under the new R80 zoning.
HC remains vigilant and will be monitoring the upcoming legislative session for any bills that may impact water quality. If you are interested in this issue and want to be involved with any future policy work, please contact Grace Stranch at Gracestranch@harpethriver.org or (615) 790-9767 Ext. 1303.