By Nathan Ham
Over 100 teachers, parents, children and members of the Watauga County community came together on Tuesday afternoon to make their voices heard in the disapproval of the planned asphalt plant construction on Rainbow Trail off of Highway 194 in Boone.
The rally took place outside the Watauga County Administration Building on Tuesday afternoon prior to the Watauga County Commissioners’ meeting that was scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Thanks to a Facebook event page put together by members of High Country WATCH that reminded everyone of a time and a place, interested supporters arrived around 4:30 p.m. and many wore green. Some of the rallying members walked from Hardin Park School to the administration building with their signs.
Organizers put the rally together after the North Carolina Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal on behalf of Watauga County, High Country WATCH and the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League. The court made this decision on March 27, meaning that the previous ruling by the NC Court of Appeals that would grant Appalachian Materials a permit to construct the asphalt plant on Rainbow Trail.
In 2015, the Watauga County Board of Adjustments denied a High Impact Land Usage permit to Appalachian Materials for the project and the Watauga County Superior Court upheld that decision in 2017.
Appalachian Materials then appealed that decision to the NC Court of Appeals and won a ruling that reversed the Watauga County Superior Court ruling on the grounds that the Margaret E. Gragg Education Center, which had been deemed as an educational facility by both the board of adjustments and the superior court, did not reach the criteria of being classified as an educational facility. The education center is home to the Watauga County Schools central office.
As for what happens next, no one is really sure. A message has been left with Watauga County Manager Deron Geouque on Wednesday morning seeking comment on what the county and its citizens can do next, if anything.