By Josiah Clark
Opposition towards the planned construction of an asphalt plant off U.S. 421 has driven many citizens of Watauga County to openly oppose Mountain City, Tenn.-based Maymead, Inc. due to environmental and quality of life concerns that may come as a result of asphalt production in Deep Gap.
High Country WATCH is organizing a concerned citizens meeting on this issue at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, June 10, at the Watauga Humane Society.
Maymead, Inc. filed an application with the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources in April requesting “ownership and name change” for the J.W. Hampton “421 Recycling Yard,” located at 5251 US-Highway 421 South, in Deep Gap, according to a the application obtained by High Country Press.
The application noted that the property will be used for asphalt production, which would be its second in the county along with the asphalt plan on N.C. 105. In April, Maymead President Wiley Roark said that this proposed plant would assist with the U.S. 221 widening project from Jefferson in Ashe County to Deep Gap.
Although Maymead, Inc. claims specialization in asphalt paving operations, and is purportedly committed to “operating in an environmentally responsible manner,” many citizens of Watauga County have been left concerned and unconvinced.
On the website for High Country WATCH, a group that fiercely opposes the proposed asphalt plant, noted that asphalt production is “highly toxic” and releases “known carcinogens.”
They also listed long-term adverse health effects, degraded air and water quality, and significantly decreased property values for local homeowners among the main reasons why opposition against another asphalt plant is so strong.
Amid concerns that the asphalt plant will tarnish the designated scenic highway, Shelton Wilder, of High County WATCH, wrote in an email to High Country Press that the proposed plant would be dangerously close to local schools, churches, and overlap into the Blue Ridge Parkway.
“This is a terrible idea and one we will fight,” said Wilder, who also warned “lives will be ruined if this plant is built.”
“This plant will deposit toxins on both Parkway Elementary School and Two Rivers School,” he said.
In similar letters to the editor of High Country Press and Watauga County Board of Commissioners, Mark and Karen Sengel recalled how another Maymead, Inc. asphalt plant near the intersection of N.C. 105 and Poplar Grove Road has wrought noise, stench, pollution, traffic and a “persistent fog” that has “created an economic dead zone that exists to this day” on a once-scenic area of Watauga County.
In another letter to the editor, Anne Ward worried that the new asphalt plant would transform the Doc and Merle Watson Scenic byway, which “serves as the gateway to the High Country,” into an industrial zone.
Currently, construction has not yet been officially green lighted, as confirmed by Lisa Edwards, the Regional Supervisor of the Division of Air Quality at DENR, Winston-Salem office.
“We have not yet received an application for construction of asphalt plants at that location. Maymead, Inc. has completed an ownership change of J.W. Hampton’s recycling yard, but they are not permitted at the moment to construct asphalt plants,” said Edwards.
NC Representative Jonathan Jordan (R) said it was too early in the stages of planning and development to offer a comment.
In addition to tonight’s meeting, concerned citizens are planning to hold a group protest in front of the courthouse before the Watauga County Board of Commissioners meeting on Tuesday, June 16, at 5:00 p.m. in the Watauga County Administration Building.
They also plan to voice their concerns afterwards to the commissioners in the meeting.
Wiley Roark, the president of Maymead, Inc. didn’t respond to numerous requests for comment this week. High Country Press will add his comments later on if he responds.
As stated on the company website, Maymead, Inc., headquartered in Mountain City, TN, is a “regional leader in aggregate and asphalt operations,” and is “committed to providing superior products with a focus on safety, productivity, and a standard of excellence in all aspects of operation.”
For more information about these meetings and other concerns, visit the High Country WATCH website, which also has a link to their online petition.