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Houston County group withdraws proposal to ban silica mining

CALEDONIA — The controversial proposal to ban all silica-sand-related activity in Houston County has been withdrawn, the day before it was to be considered — and likely rejected — by the county board.

That decision was announced Monday afternoon by the Houston County Protectors, who issued a scathing press release following last week's contentious public hearing held by the Houston County Planning Commission that lasted four-plus hours and saw two people removed by local law enforcement.

The ordinance amendment was scheduled to be discussed at 9 a.m. Tuesday by the Houston County board following last week's recommendation by the planning commission to reject the proposal by a 5-2 vote.

HCP representatives Ken Tschumper and Bryan Van Gorp criticized the public process in a six-sentence press release. They were two of the three people were presented the ordinance to the planning commission on Sept. 29.

"We developed a good ordinance and acted in a good-faith manner, but it was apparent that the Planning Commission was not acting in good faith," said Tschumper, a former state representative. "At times, they attempted to prevent people who supported the amendment from talking about relevant topics as the need to address climate change and to reduce our use of fossil fuels."


Van Gorp was even more pointed in his criticism.

"The meeting was set up in such a fashion we were unable to respond to statements made by people who did not understand our proposal," Van Gorp said. "The bottom line is you can't trust the Planning Commission or its chairman."

After withdrawing the proposed ordinance, the Houston County Protectors say they will launch "several initiatives, including an investigation into whether or not non-conforming mines are paying the amount of property taxes they are required to by law."

However, the press release is the second time Planning Commission Chairman Dan Griffin has been thrust into the spotlight this fall over charges of wrongdoing. A second opposition group called Families Resisting Energy Extraction, or FREE, filed a six-pronged ethics complaint against Griffin on Sept. 21.

The county board is aware of the complaint, but declined to take action at its previous meeting. FREE had requested that Griffin be removed from his chairman position for the discussion about HCP's proposed ordinance amendment, which FREE supported.

Calls made Monday seeking an update on the complaint process were not immediately returned.

The situation further escalated last week when Griffin had FREE member Michael Fields removed from last week's controversial meeting by a sheriff's deputy after Fields began to reference the pending ethics complaints during his public comments.

Former Houston County Zoning Administrator Bob Scanlan was previously suspended for five days for violations while the county was in the midst of its three-year silica sand moratorium. Scanlan resigned in August.

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