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Commissioners Schedule June Public Hearing on Residential/Polluting Industry Buffers

By Jesse Wood

On Tuesday, the Watauga County Board of Commissioners scheduled a public hearing on June 16 to listen to citizen comments regarding amendments to the county’s high impact land uses and noise ordinances.

The review of the county’s High Impact Land Uses ordinance came about after the N.C. General Assembly passed a law eliminating the Town of Boone’s extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ).

Following that legislation, citizens of the ETJ appeared before the commissioners asking for residential buffer zones from polluting businesses in light of Watauga County taking control of the ETJ.

Last year, ETJ citizens asked for a two-year moratorium on polluting industries operating in the ETJ and at least 1,000-foot buffer. Two weeks before the law was going into effect, the commissioners settled upon a 90-day moratorium. It was also noted that the Watauga County Planning Commission didn’t have enough time to review the ordinance and make recommendations to the commissioners before the law went into effect on Jan. 1.

Well, the 90-day moratorium proved to be moot point as a three-judge panel, deciding on the lawsuit between the Town of Boone and the state, granted the Town of Boone an injunction, essentially retaining the Town of Boone’s authority in the ETJ until a final decision is handed down later this year.

As for the potential changes to the High Impact Land Uses ordinance, the key amendment is instituting a 500-foot buffer between any residential dwelling and asphalt plants, cement mixing facilities and quarries/stone crushers.

Another notable potential change to the ordinance is the re-categorization of industries. Planning Board Chair Ric Mattar noted that this was done in order to not be so restrictive on industries that weren’t asphalt plants, cement mixing facilities and quarries/stone crushers.

The High Impact Land Use ordinance hadn’t been amended since its adoption in 2003.

As for the noise ordinance, Watauga Count Planning Director Joe Furman said he sought the advice of Watauga County Sheriff’s Office, which enforces the ordinance. As for the changes, he noted that is pretty much an update because the ordinance hadn’t been amended since its adoption in 1986.

“[For example], there’s a reference to phonographs,” Furman said.

The commissioners scheduled the meeting in June in order to get the budget out of the way before dealing with this issue. The commissioners will likely vote on the changes after listening to the public on Tuesday, June 16.

The public hearings, which are required before any official changes to ordinances, will begin at 6 p.m.

See all of the amendments here.