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Town Council Adopts Resolution Opposing Proposed Asphalt Plants Outside of Boone

By Jesse Wood

On Thursday night, the Boone Town Council adopted a resolution opposing the proposed asphalt plants by Radford Quarries and Maymead Inc. along Rainbow Trail Road, which is located just shy of town limits, and U.S. 421 in Deep Gap, which is one of the major corridors heading into Boone.

Both Council Members Quint David and Lynne Mason sought to add a resolution opposing the proposed asphalt plants to the meeting’s agenda at the last minute, and all of the council members and Mayor Andy Ball spoke a few words on the subject.

Ball, noting that the asphalt plants are outside of its jurisdiction, said the one proposed for Rainbow Trail Road would “affect us quite a bit” because of the proximity of it to Boone. Ball called on the Watauga County Board of Commissioners to either make an immediate revision to the county’s High Impact Land Use Ordinance or hold an asphalt plant moratorium.

Mason sounded distraught as she spoke about the negative effects these two plants would have on the Town of Boone and its citizens if they were approved, built and operated.

“This is huge,” Mason said. “I am kind of in shock to be honest … I think this would have a devastating impact on our community in so many different ways both economically and from an environment and health and public safety [standpoint]. I think we need to do whatever we can to try to keep this from happening. This would be devastating to the town. This two-mile radius encompasses the whole town.”

The resolution notes that Maymead’s current plant on N.C. 105 and Radford Quarries’ proposed plant on Rainbow Trail Road would overlap in the middle of the ASU campus, which would get “double the pollution.”

David said that the commissioners originally deciding to look at buffers between polluting industries and residential areas as a “good start.” David said that the plant on N.C. 105 “already has its own issues.”

David wondered aloud about what would happen if the asphalt plant decided to ramp up production on “First Fridays” or football games. He imagined visitors coming to Boone and Watauga County, which both have a tourism based economy, for the first time and deciding that it would be the last time.

Councilman Rennie Brantz feared the long-term consequences of more asphalt plants in Boone.

“We need to act now. I support this resolution,” Brantz said.

Councilwoman Jennifer Pena encouraged citizens to sign petitions and contact the county commissioners and the N.C. Division of Air Quality and touch base with High Country W.A.T.C.H., a community group that has formed in opposition of the U.S. 421 proposed asphalt plant and has partnered with BREDL (Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League).

High Country W.A.T.C.H. is holding a community meeting at the Watauga Humane Society on the evening of Tuesday, June 23.

The Watauga County Board of Commissioners scheduled a special meeting on Monday, June 22, to talk about viable options to address citizens’ concerns about these asphalt plants, including a moratorium.

To read more about these proposed asphalt plants, click here.

See the entire resolution below:

Resolution Regarding the Proposed Asphalt Plant on Rainbow Trail

WHEREAS, Radford Quarries is applying to construct an asphalt plant on Rainbow Trail; and,

WHEREAS, the proposed Rainbow Trail Radford Quarry site is adjacent to the Town of Boone Corporate Town limits; and,

WHEREAS, the two mile radius of the 105 plant and the proposed Rainbow Trail plant overlap is in the middle of ASU campus including Kidd Brewer Stadium, so they will get double the pollution; and,

WHEREAS, the following are within a 1-mile radius of the proposed asphalt plant:

  • Hardin Park Elementary School;
  • Pathways Montessori School;
  • Grace Academy at Boone United Methodist Church
  • ASU Lake (water source to ASU);
  • Howard’s Knob;
  • Large number of private homes;
  • Large number of multifamily residences;
  • Boone United Trail;
  • Churches;
  • Shopping Center;
  • Farms; and,

WHEREAS, the following are within a 2-mile radius of the proposed asphalt plant:

  • Watauga High School;
  • South Fork of the New River;
  • The Greenway Trail;
  • Appalachian State University; and

WHEREAS, toxins from asphalt plants are deposited over two miles away, and 

WHEREAS, asphalt plants mix aggregate with petroleum products to make asphalt. The process releases tons of toxic chemicals into the air each year, including volatile organic compounds, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and very fine condensed particulates (soot and even heavy metals); and,

WHEREAS, many of these are highly toxic and/or known carcinogens, e.g. benzene, formaldehyde, hydrogen sulfide, mercury, and cadmium; and,

WHEREAS, adverse health effects increase with long-term exposure; and

WHEREAS, citizens with asthma and other respiratory ailments will suffer most; and,

WHEREAS, asphalt emissions significantly degrade air quality, but also degrade the water quality of our beautiful rivers, creeks, and streams; and,

WHEREAS, the mountain climate has more inversions and fog than the piedmont and that has not been considered in the past weather modeling by DENR. Fog + Smoke = Smog, which is a much more intense, acidic way to take in the many toxins produced in the asphalt production process; and,

WHEREAS, a study by the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League (BREDL) looked at property prices before and after the Maymead Asphalt plant was built in Avery County revealed homeowners suffered an average drop of 27% in property values (as assessed by the county); and,

WHEREAS, studies have shown that:

  • Home values within ¼ mile of a quarry will drop by about 30%
  • Homes 1 mile away will decrease by about 13% in value
  • Homes as far as 3 miles away drop by 6% in value

WHEREAS, the 421 location as well as the Rainbow Trail location goes against everything in the Citizens Plan for Watauga County and the Planning Board’s recent Highway 421 Deep Gap Corridor assessment which came out May 18, 2015; and,

WHEREAS, we are in jeopardy of losing the scenic designation for the Doc and Merle Watson scenic byway as that plant would in effect zone that road industrial, and high impact industrial use; and

WHEREAS, an asphalt plant would not be a good welcome on the scenic byway corridor entering Watauga County and Boone jeopardizing the tourist industry which brought in 216 million in revenue and over 8 million in taxes in 2013; and

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Town Council for the Town of Boone request that the Watauga County Commissioners issue a moratorium on all new asphalt plants in Watauga County in order to provide time to study the proposed locations of the Rainbow Trail and 421 sites; and,

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Town Council for the Town of Boone request that the Watauga County Commissioners amend the High Impact Use Ordinance to provide extra protection from high impact uses that impact public health and safety and to provide an opportunity for public comment; and,

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that a copy of this resolution shall be sent to the Watauga County Commissioners and County Manager.

Adopted by a unanimous vote of the Town Council on the 18th day of June, 2015.