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Neighbors of proposed masonry business expansion in Fayetteville concerned over environmental, health impacts


Fay Block Materials, a family-owned masonry business with an on-site storage facility in north Fayetteville, is looking to expand its storage yard by 1.4 acres via a rezoning request to the city. 

Though the expansion encompasses only a relatively small area, neighbors say the facility’s sprawling operations have already encroached upon the low-income neighborhood, and, they worry, have polluted the air there with dust.

“We don't know what might be in the air, but sometimes when it's in the summer, you have a lot of dust going in the air,” Andrew Bryant, who lives behind the lots being rezoned, said. “Then you have noise late at night. Then also you have the smell. See, if someone does this to your community, how do you feel?”

Google Maps images from recent years depict high stacks of concrete bricks and pavers that tower above the property fence. Another neighbor worries that the stormwater runoff could be polluting the nearby waterways, including the Cape Fear River.

“This is the residential zone,” said Felice Lockamy, who lives in the neighborhood. “How would you like that to be in your neighborhood? Just to look out and see cinderblocks mountain up, then the dust . . . and you're thinking … stormwater. Where is that water going? What's in those cinder blocks? What's in that dirt and dust? Where is it going — right to the Cape Fear River.” 

The three parcels in question are currently zoned as mixed-residential and Fay Bocks wants to rezone them as heavy industrial to expand its storage of concrete blocks and pavers. 

Tom Lloyd, the rezoning project agent for Fay Block, said the storage expansion won’t contribute additional dust — the creation of which he attributes to traffic from the parking lot of the main facility. 

“This rezoning for merely storage of their product, no truck traffic, will have no bearing,” Lloyd told CityView. “Even if it's turned down, it won't alleviate their problem. Their problem is with the main plant.”

The city’s Zoning Commission recommended approval of the rezoning with a 3-1 vote on Nov. 14. It was initially included in the council’s consent agenda for Nov. 27, but the council removed the item from the consent agenda and scheduled it for a public hearing at Monday’s Fayetteville City Council meeting. 

At that meeting, two neighbors spoke out against the expansion and Council Member Malik Davis — who represents the neighborhood — moved to table the public hearing on the expansion to the next council meeting, on Jan. 22. 

Davis told CityView on Wednesday that he had made the  motion to table the discussion at the request of Fay Block.  He said that several of his constituents had shared their concerns about Fay Block with him recently, and he described the concerns as "legitimate." 

At Monday's council meeting, Bryant asked the council to conduct an air quality assessment of the area, since he believes pollution from the facility poses a potential threat to the health and safety of the community. Breathing in dust from concrete and other building block materials has been linked to a variety of health issues, including bronchitis, damage to the lungs and asthma. 

Silica dust, which can also be found in pavers — though not necessarily in the ones manufactured by Fay Blocks —  is especially harmful to human health, causing COPD and lung scarring and lung diseases, including cancer. Bryant believes an air quality assessment will help determine if the dust in the area is hazardous and how to help the community mitigate the potential risks. 

The company said in its zoning application that the storage won’t have a negative impact on the environment. 

“No adverse impact as all goods stored are dry, with no leaking of fluids, no traffic is generated, and there is no noise manifested from this use,” the application states. 

Dust from outdoor storage of masonry materials, particularly concrete, is known to leach into the environment, and is referred to as “fugitive dust.” However, Fay Block says “the inclusion of vegetative buffer, a 6-foot-high wall, and regular watering of the storage yard will safeguard the nearby housing from noise and dust.”

According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s guidelines on aggregate mineral storage, outdoor storage of masonry materials can result in dust emissions “at several points in the storage cycle,” such as by unloading and loading materials, strong wind currents and the movements of trucks the storage pile.  

Lloyd claims wind could not lead to dust coming off the intact blocks being stored outside. 

“These things weigh thousands of pounds,” Lloyd said. “The wind's not going to blow them."

Fay Block’s application fulfills nearly all of the requirements for the rezoning request, but does not say “the size, physical conditions, and other attributes of the proposed use(s) will benefit the surrounding community.”

Lockamy said she feels the business has done more to hurt than help the community.  

“Go down there and take a walk around and take a breath, look around, walk down the street as a lot of people do, and take in the scenery of the cinder blocks and fences,” Lockamy said. “We take care of our neighborhood. We're proud of it. It's home for a lot of us, been home for a long time.”

Contact Evey Weisblat at cityviewnc.com or 216-527-3608. 

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dust, Fay Block, rezoning, environmental