Editor’s Note: There is no public hearing. Citizens can speak on any topic they want during public comment at the end of the meeting. County Manager Deron Geouque said that Commissioner John Welch asked to speak on the matter discussed below and the county attorney will update the board on the same issue.
The Watauga County Board of Commissioners will meet at the County Building on King Street in Boone, across from Mellow Mushroom, Tuesday, Feb. 16 at 5:30.
The Board of Adjustments recently overturned the county’s earlier revocation of Johnny Hampton’s 2011 High Impact Land Use (HILU) permit for an asphalt plant that has never been constructed. The board went against the county’s ruling and the judgment of Planning Director Joe Furman, a 30+ year county employee.
High Country WATCH will be asking the County Commissioners during public comment to appeal this ruling to Superior Court. There are several reasons this is an appropriate course of action for the county:
- Compelling evidence was given that the HILU permit held by Mr. Hampton (not his company) was not only expired after four years of inactivity, but was not transferable to another entity who was leasing (not purchasing) the property.
- Hampton told Mr. Furman that he had given up plans for an asphalt plant & discussed with him an industrial park on the property (detailed plans were drawn for such a site)
- No vested interest exists for either the Hampton Co. or Maymead Corporation since virtually all of the work done at the site was for The Hampton Grading and Crushing businesses.
- The Maymead site plan was for a completely different piece of property than the original permit until they changed it, pleading a “mistake”, shortly before the permit was revoked.
- Wiley Roark, president of Maymead, who leased the property from Hampton in May 2015, stated under oath that he purchased the permit from Johnny Hampton – he did not purchase land or equipment – he purchased a Watauga County HILU permit from Johnny Hampton, though no documents to that effect exist.
- With this move, the Board of Adjustments has established a dangerous precedent for Watauga County – a company can obtain a HILU permit, never develop the land covered by the permit, and then, years later, sell the permit to the highest-bidder.
- Nowhere does the Watauga County HILU ordinance allow for the sale and purchase of an unused HILU permit years after it was issued.
- This is poor land-use policy that leaves Watauga County families without valuable market knowledge and unprotected from the encroachments of high impact development.
Virtually none of the points made by the attorney for the County were considered when the Board of Adjustments “deliberated” for a scant 10 minutes after 10 days of testimony, the longest B.O.A. hearing in NC history. Rather, the B.O.A. findings of fact were all taken from the instructions provided by Maymead’s attorney.
One HCWatch member who attended all of the hearings said that the B.O.A.’s decision to overturn the County was shocking, and will have a serious long term impact on our citizen’s health, property values, and our tourist economy. We feel strongly the evidence in this case needs to be heard in a court of law, which is why we are urging the citizens of the county to let the commissioners know they need to appeal this case to superior court.
About High Country WATCH: High Country WATCH (Wataugans Against Toxins Close to Home) was formed by a group of concerned Watauga County residents who are actively advocating for responsible economic development in Watauga County. High Country WATCH, a non-profit chapter of the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League (BREDL), is composed entirely of volunteers. You can find out more about High Country WATCH at its website: www.highcountrywatch.com.