By Jesse Wood
All of the testimony before the Watauga County Board of Adjustment for Maymead and Hampton appeal of an asphalt plant permit denial has concluded and closing arguments are scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 10, at 4 p.m. in the Watauga County Administrative Building.
In June, the Watauga County Planning and Inspections department revoked a 2011 permit for an asphalt plant to be operated by Maymead Inc. in Deep Gap. The county had originally granted J.W. Hampton Co. the permit, but Maymead applied for a transfer of the permit after it secured a lease from the Hampton family earlier this year (with first refusal purchase rights on 100+ acres in the area).
Watauga County Planning Director Joe Furman said that his department revoked the permit, deemed it expired and nontransferable to Maymead for three reasons:
- Additional required permits have not been obtained/maintained as follows: air quality permit from N.C. Division of Air Quality; driveway connection permit from N.C. Department of Transportation; storm water permit from N.C. Division of Energy, Mineral and Land Resources; grading/building/electrical permits from Watauga County
- Four years have passed since the original permit was issued and no appreciable progress has been made towards its implementation; as a result of this delay in establishing a use under the previously issued permit, it has expired
- The area described in the lease agreement does not encompass the area previously described in the Hampton permit related to the potential location of an asphalt plant. Discrepancies between lease area and the previously permitted (now expired) location make the proposed use not compliant with the ordinance or the now expired permit
Maymead appealed the decision soon thereafter and the Watauga County Board of Adjustment started hearing the case in November.
Immediately after the revocation of the permit, Maymead President Wiley Roark maintained to High Country Press that his company had vested rights and called the health concerns by citizens “ridiculous.”
In addition to health concerns, High Country W.A.T.C.H., a group of local citizens that formed in opposition to the asphalt plant, also cited declining quality of life and property values in proximity to asphalt plants.
Following the revocation of the permit and protests from the public, the Watauga County Board of Commissioners amended the county’s High Impact Land Use Ordinance, which regulates asphalt plants and other polluting land uses. Changes included adopting a 750-foot buffer between a category of uses that includes asphalt plants and residential property lines and 1,500-foot buffer between a scenic byway and the category of uses that includes asphalt plants.
The location of Maymead’s proposed asphalt plant is situated just off of U.S. 421, which is a designated scenic byway known as the Doc and Merle Watson Scenic Byway near Deep Gap.
Furman said that on Feb. 10, attorneys for Maymead/Hampton, Watauga County and High Country W.A.T.C.H., an intervening party that opposes the asphalt plant due to quality of life concerns, will present closing arguments to the Watauga County Board of Adjustment.
Furman mentioned that following the closing arguments, the adjustment board will deliberate, make findings and come to a decision. The arguments and final rendering could occur on the same evening or it could be continued until Feb. 22 at 4 p.m., which is a tentative date as of right now.
So far the board has met nine times to hear the appeal over the course of 50 hours, according to Furman.
Due to concerns from the public, the N.C. Division of Air Quality has scheduled a public hearing on March 3 concerning a required air quality emissions permit for the Deep Gap site. See a release from the DAQ below.
DAQ doesn’t have a say in where an asphalt plant is located. That authority falls on local governments to regulate. The DAQ review is for compliance with the state’s air quality regulations.
If DAQ does issue the permit to Maymead, the company still would have to acquire permits from Watauga County.
Public Hearing Scheduled on Air Permit for Watauga County Asphalt Plant
State environmental regulators have scheduled a public hearing for March 3 on a permit for controlling potential air emissions from proposed asphalt plant in Watauga County.
Maymead Materials Inc. – 421 Recycling Yard has applied for a permit to build and operate an asphalt plant on 5251 US Highway 421 South outside of Boone, NC. The permit deals with the control of particulate matter, sulfur dioxide and other air emissions from the proposed plant.
The public hearing is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. Thursday, March 3, at the Watauga County Court Room One, 842 West King St., Boone, NC 28607. Individuals may register to speak at the hearing and/or submit written comments. Written comments will be accepted until March 3, and can be submitted at the hearing or sent to: Jalal Adouli, NC Division of Air Quality, Winston-Salem Regional Office, 450 Hanes Mill Road, Suite 300, Winston-Salem, NC 27105; or emailed to [email protected]
Persons wishing to speak at the hearing should plan to limit their comments to three minutes or less. The hearing officer will have the discretion to limit speaking times if necessary to accommodate the number of speakers.
Under the permit, Maymead Materials must demonstrate that it can comply with state and federal rules for controlling particulate matter, sulfur dioxide and other air emissions. Under the proposed permit, the facility would use a bag filter as the primary means for controlling emissions.
By law, the state must review air permits for compliance with air quality regulations. The state has no authority over zoning, land use, or where a company decides to locate a facility. Local governments are responsible for regulating land use. The issuance of an air quality permit does not imply that the proposed facility would comply with local ordinances and requirements
The permit contains a requirement that the facility must comply with all lawfully adopted local ordinances that apply to the facility at the time of its construction or operation, according to state law. The local zoning authority has the responsibility of enforcing all lawfully adopted local zoning or subdivision ordinances
The draft permit may be viewed on-line at http://www.ncair.org/permits/perm_draftrev/ or at the Watauga County Public Library, 140 Queen St., Boone, NC, 28607; or at the Division of Air Quality Winston-Salem Regional Office, 450 Hanes Mill Road, Suite 300, Winston-Salem, NC 27105; phone (336) 776-9800
More information about air quality issues can be found at the Division of Air Quality’s web site, www.ncair.org/
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