The preservation of rare and unique ecological finds in the Cedar Mountain area in what has been the center of a zoning battle to turn the property into a rock quarry is the topic of a meeting this weekend.
The public is invited to join a group of citizens who are interested in preserving what has been described as the "rare, complex and unique attributes" of Cedar Mountain, located in northwest Douglas County. The citizen meeting will be held Saturday at 2 p.m. at Social 92, located at 8127 Dallas Highway (Highway 92). Assistant Research Scientist J.P. Schmidt of the University of Georgia Odom School of Ecology will be a guest speaker.
Schmidt will share his research and discoveries of the area and discuss why he believes it is so important to protect and preserve this significant area of plant biodiversity, rock outcroppings and scenic vistas and natural areas.
Local resident Marsha Chandler said she originally contacted Schmidt during rezoning hearings by he city of Douglasville upon which a request for the property owned by Johnny Blankenship was being considered --and denied--in order to build a quarry by developer Bart Boyd.
Chandler said that at the meeting there will be additional updates on the pending lawsuit that rock quarry representative Bart Boyd and landowner Johnny Blankenship have filed against the city of Douglasville.
Chief Assistant City Attorney Suzan Littlefield told the Sentinel Wednesday that a lawsuit against the city was filed and served Feb.16 by plaintiffs Boyd and Blankenship. The city is being defended in the lawsuit by Laurel Henderson in Newnan and Decatur, who was appointed as counsel by the city's risk insurer.
She said no court dates have been set, as civil suits usually have six months for discovery before court action begins.
Blankenship owns the industrial property of approximately 200 acres located near South Flat Rock Rock and West Strickland Street, in a part of Douglasville reserved mostly for railroad and industry use, it is stated in the civil lawsuit against the city of Douglasville. The Douglasville City Council denied the rezoning application on 150 acres of the property in order to construct a quarry. According to the complaintant, the property is unable to be developed until the valuable rock and resources on the site are removed. One-hundred fifty acres of the property are already zoned for heavy industrial uses.
The civil suit states, "The city of Douglasville's denial of the zoning application is arbitrary and capricious, discriminatroy and constitues an illegal taking of Plaintiff's property rights."
Chandler said anyone interested in history or plant life are welcome to attend Saturday's meeting. She said there was no official group organizing the meeting, but a number of people heading up the committee to stop the quarry would be present.
"I didn't know Cedar Mountain was such a special area," said Chandler. "There have been eagles spotted and it is a very unique area that should be preserved for everyone to enjoy and use."
She said Schmidt "will share his expertise to help us with possible ways to preserve and protect Cedar Mountain and its environs from development that would destroy or diminish this unique local resource."
In a letter to the Douglasville City Council, Schmidt wrote:
"I write to encourage the protection of Cedar Mountain as an important natural area in Douglas County with exceptional value for recreation and nature interpretation.
"I became acquainted with Cedar Mountain several years ago as part of a research project with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to identify significant natural areas within the Piedmont region of Georgia worthy of conservation. The Cedar Mountain complex is a large and quite undisturbed complex of rock outcrops and dry-site forest and open woodland.
"Largely undeveloped, Cedar Mountain is very scenic with long vistas on the open rock outcrops, and hosts a unique combination of plants species, including several rare species. As such, Cedar Mountain is unique in Georgia, and the Southeast. Therefore, I urge the Douglasville City Council in the strongest terms to work to protect Cedar Mountain and its environs from development that would destroy or diminish this unique local resource."
Curtis Shipley, a member of Concerned Citizens of Douglas County who worked vigorously with others to stop the rezoning of the Cedar Mountain property which Boyd requested in order to build a quarry, said he had a copy of the lawsuit against the city, and right now the group isn't really involved.
"We'd love to get involved," he said. "We have a lot of information from people who have lived around quarries. We're trying to figure out how to help if there's anything we can do. Our goal is just to be helpful to the city. We're committed and ready."
He explained that the landowner, Johnny Blankenship, is a party to the lawsuit, but if it doesn't go through, Shipley said they would like to reach out to the owner and help him sell his property and work together.
"We could make it a park or green space," Shipley said. "A rock quarry is so intrusive. The thought of destroying what we've got here for another rock quarry doesn't make sense. A quarry would be a negative that will impact generations upon generations."