By Jesse Wood
Unless its continued in the next couple weeks, the Rainbow Trail asphalt plant case will be heard by Judge Gregory Horne in Watauga County Superior Court on Monday, Aug. 14.
The case – Appalachian Materials LLC v. Watauga County, nearby residents Terry and Sharon Covell, and Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League – is a non-jury trial, according to the court calendar.
In June 2015, Radford Quarries – under the Appalachian Materials LLC – submitted an application to build an asphalt plant off of Rainbow Trail Road, which is located just outside of Boone and connects to N.C. 194.
Watauga County Planning Director Joe Furman announced this application at a hearing regarding another proposed asphalt plant along U.S. 421 in Deep Gap almost two years ago. At this hearing, some 200 people attended to show opposition to the proposed Maymead plant in Deep Gap, which is currently in the court system.
When Furman mentioned the Rainbow Trail application at that meeting in June 2015, people in attendance mentioned the location’s proximity to Hardin Park Elementary School, Watauga County Board of Education and ASU Lake, which is fed from Norris Branch and supplies the entire campus with water.
In 2013, Radford Properties Inc. purchased 8.5 acres off of Rainbow Trail Road, according to a record search with the Watauga County Register of Deeds.
According to the asphalt plant application, the “amount of land disturbance” would cover 2.21 acres if approved and setbacks would include 184 feet in front and 100 feet in the left, right and rear of the proposed plant.
Several days after the application was filed, Watauga County Planning Director Joe Furman announced that his department had denied the asphalt plant permit for Rainbow Trail because it didn’t meet spacing requirements.
“The current HILU ordinances provides for a 1500 foot for certain protected uses, such as educational facilities. The lot proposed as the site for an asphalt plant lies entirely within the 1,500 foot buffer for the Watauga County Board of Education facilities,” Furman told High Country Press at the time.
In July 2015, Furman announced that Radford Quarries had appealed the decision to deny the asphalt plant on Rainbow Trail Road. Their appeal was that the Margaret E. Gragg Education Center, the central office of Watauga County Schools and space for school board meetings, was not an educational facility based on the county’s ordinance.
In October, the Watauga County Board of Adjustment upheld the Watauga County Planning Department’s denial of the proposed asphalt plant off of Rainbow Trail Road after 17 hours and three days of testimony.