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A company operating a quarry in Soddy-Daisy was granted three years to finish its rock harvesting operation before it will remediate the property and donate part of the land to Ivy Academy, the town's zoning board of appeals voted Wednesday morning.

The project has long been in operation but hit a roadblock when city leaders discovered earlier this year that no required conditional permits had been granted to the previous owner due to an oversight by the city more than 14 years ago.

"We dropped the ball," city manager Janice Cagle told the board, later adding "[Current property owner Ned] Rich has been a good neighbor to our city. He's complied with any request I've ever made of him. The city recommends this."

Rich, of CSH Inc., started excavating across from Ivy Academy near Dayton Pike in 2014 while leasing the property from its previous owner. He purchased it in 2016 and has grown the quarry to 10.2 acres. The company has been permitted through the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, but it was unaware the project did not have a required conditional permit from the city.

After learning of the oversight, Rich put together a plan to recoup his money over three years, remediate the land beyond TDEC standards and donate it to Ivy Academy. Rich said there's enough stone at the site to justify about seven or eight years of harvesting, but that he would need three years to recoup his investment. The four present board members unanimously approved a permit for the plan.

"When it was brought to our attention, we immediately started talking to the people. We tried to listen to everyone and come up with a plan," Rich said. "Our deal is this, we'd like to finish our project, put the property back into a green space and give it to Ivy Academy so it can be an asset to the community for generations."

The oversight was discovered by North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy, and its officials largely were pleased with Rich's remediation plan. However, they argued the quarry would not have been allowed had it gone through the proper process of obtaining the permit. Organization representatives attended the meeting to ask the board to put in language to ensure the remediation was completed and have a plan in place in case it didn't occur, which the board ultimately did.

The approximately one-hour meeting focused solely on the issue as Rich; his environmental contractor, Tony Grow of Grow Environmental Solutions; the board; the conservancy; and members of the public discussed the remediation plan to work through its details. Two residents spoke in opposition of the quarry operation — largely due to the dust and noise it has caused — but said they were pleased with the remediation plan. Rich has cut Saturday site work, limiting rock harvesting to weekdays due to noise complaints. His company now works Mondays through Fridays from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m.

The company's site sits on two tracts of land. The back tract away from Dayton Pike is about 19 acres — 10 of which consists of the quarry. The front part of the property, which is partially residential, is about 10 acres. Under the now-adopted plan, Rich will have six months after his harvesting for the remediation. Rich and Grow's remediation plan includes filling the hole with topsoil, planting chestnut oak and red maple trees, adding a terrace and more.

The back part of the property will be donated to Ivy Academy, which plans to use it as an environmental classroom and ballfield. The environmentally focused school will also have the first chance to buy the front portion of the property, if it so chooses.

"We are very grateful for this perspective mitigation plan, and Mr. Rich has been a great community partner for several years" Ivy Academy operator and director Angie Markum told the board. "He has come through for the school on several occasions and always does what he says he's going to do. We see this as an opportunity to increase our influence and be a greater environmental leader as far as education in the state."

The mining operation must be completed by Dec. 15, 2022. The remediation must be done by June 15, 2023.

Contact Mark Pace at mpace@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6659. Follow him on Twitter @themarkpace and on Facebook at ChattanoogaOutdoorsTFP.

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