ROGERSVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) – The Hawkins County Commission approved new road use restrictions on a narrow, winding road that could put a prospective quarry in jeopardy.
Jim Town Road, just outside Rogersville, now has a weight restriction of 20,000 lbs., effectively immediately. Hawkins County commissioners voted to approve the restriction 17-2 due to resident concerns about safety and road conditions.
At the end of Jim Town Road sits what property owner Dustin Long hoped will soon be his rock quarry.
The quarry had been there since the late 1800s. Long purchased the property in January 2021 with the intent of re-opening the quarry and starting logging operation there.
“This is our livelihood. This is how we feed our families,” Long said after the decision. “We’ve got to work. We’re like everybody else. We’ve got bills to pay and obligations to meet.”
The resolution passed by commissioners said Jim Town Road carried safety hazards like narrow roads that cannot support two-way traffic, numerous sharp curves and steep embankments on the side of the road.
In April 2021, Hawkins County commissioned an engineering study on Jim Town Road. In May 2021, a 20 mile-per-hour speed limit was instituted.
In June 2021, the study came back and determined the county must take “immediate action to mitigate current risks while permitting essential traffic until permanent upgrades to the road can be completed.”
Jim Town Road homeowners say they have complained about the quarry’s potential impact on road safety to the county for months.
“There’s only one way in, one way out on Jim Town Road. The roads not made for two vehicles to pass. There’s just not enough room there,” said Jim Town Road resident Richard Copeland.
According to the resolution, trucks and trailers over the weight limit can apply for a temporary permit from the Hawkins County road superintendent to use the road. The permit, however, would only allow for two weeks of use and required an escort vehicle to guide any overweight truck.
Long said the weight limit severely limits the operation of his business.
“It does impact us greatly,” Long said. “Our business is moving material, and we can’t move material.”
It said limiting vehicle weight would prevent damage to the roadway and reduce safety risks to those driving on Jim Town Road.
Residents were happy with the decision Monday night. They worried continued use of the road by large vehicles could change the community near Cherokee Lake they’ve grown to love.
“Every time we go down there, you can really see just the erosion, deterioration and the upset from the big trucks,” resident Mike Jarnagin said. “The community and the people that enjoy the waterways and do the recreation, the boating, the fishing. It could really have an impact.
Long said he was treated unfairly by the county’s decision.
“That just legislates that one individual out of the use of his property, and that’s not fair,” Long said.
Long’s attorney was present at the Hawkins County Commission meeting. He handed commissioners a letter saying the resolution was invalid because it lacked standards for exemptions to the weight limit.
The letter said the resolution would make Long’s property “substantially less valuable, if not valueless, especially considering his property’s use as a quarry.”
Long said he is working toward building a road through his property that would connect to Highway 11.