Sawmill gets OK for 24-7 operation

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By Jeff M. Hardison

A sawmill that makes pine shavings received a unanimous vote of approval from the Levy County Board of County Commissioners for a special exception amendment Dec. 4 to let it run 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The Derby Gold mill received its first special exception on Jan. 2. The Dec. 3 amendment changes the hours from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. to 24 hours a day.

Derby Gold Pine Shaving has been operating for approximately five years in the Williston area. Its wood-shaving machinery is completely enclosed now to reduce sound.

Derby Gold, the Hodge Brothers Sand Mine and Williston Timber are all in the same area.

In this operation for pine shavings, trees are shaved. Some of the shavings are dried and packaged. Other forms of the shavings are shipped "wet."

Attorney Timothy Fischer of Ocala pleaded with the County Commission on behalf of a couple of clients in the area. Fischer said the continuous, persistent droning noise from the wood-chipping mill and the failure of the applicant to work within the bounds previously set were reasons to consider revocation of the special exception.

Commission Chairman Sammy Yearty said the county would watch the business and attempt to resolve any conflicts before revoking the special exception.

The amendment to the special exception, letting the mill run at all hours, includes conditions. There must be no sound at the property line of the neighbors.

Will Irby of Derby Gold said the company would work within all restrictions. The company has spent $50,000 on revamping its operation to reduce noise. Another concern about increasing the hours of operation is traffic.

The main access road comes off of Levy County Road 322. Irby, an associate of business owner Eddie Hodge, said there will be another five semi-tractor trailers daily to total 10 truckloads.

Irby told the County Commission this business helps 60 working people and their families directly. It benefits several hundreds of other individuals, Irby said.

Winding Oaks subdivision residents complained about the constant noise from the sawmill.

Fischer said his clients do not want to hear the constant drone, especially at night, and through the early morning and on Sundays. He asked the commission to "listen to the will of the people."

Commissioner Nancy Bell said the commission couldn't deny this special exception. The applicant is in compliance with the county codes, she said, and Irby and Hodges are trying to stop the noise issues. This is a working business, she said.

Both Bell and Commissioner Lilly Rooks said they heard a dog barking in the subdivision more than they heard any noise from the mill.

Commissioner Tony Parker told Fischer that when he speaks of the "will of the people," he must remember the business owner and employees are people too.

Levy County Building and Zoning Director Rob Corbitt said Derby Gold is in compliance with the county's ordinances.