Commissioners Adopt Brief Moratorium on Asphalt Plants, Uncertainty Remains

Published Tuesday, June 23, 2015 at 10:12 am
Citizens opposing another asphalt plant in Watauga County held a second protest before a Watauga County Board of Commissioners meeting on Monday. Photo by Jesse Wood

Citizens opposing another asphalt plant in Watauga County held a second protest before a Watauga County Board of Commissioners meeting on Monday. Photo by Jesse Wood

By Jesse Wood

At a special meeting on Monday night to review modification options on the high impact land use ordinance, the Watauga County Board of Commissioners enacted a brief moratorium on asphalt plants, cement mixing facilities and quarries/stone crushers.

The moratorium went into effect immediately and will end on July 31. This will give the commissioners enough time to hold another public hearing, which is required because of newly proposed amendments to the high impact land use ordinance.

Newly proposed changes to the high impact land use ordinance include requiring a 1,500-foot buffer between the three land uses from the N.C. Department of Transportation’s right of way on a NCDOT-designated scenic byway. It would also consider setbacks of the three land uses from residential dwellings in a range of 500 to 1,500 feet.

Maymead’s site for its proposed asphalt plant is located along the Doc and Merle Watson Scenic Highway on U.S. 421 in Deep Gap.

Currently, the high impact land use ordinance requires a 1,500-foot buffer between several high impact land uses, including asphalt plants, and educational, childcare, assisted living and nursing home facilities, (which caused the denial of the asphalt plant permit proposed on Rainbow Trail Road by Radford Quarries). But the current ordinance doesn’t require a buffer between asphalt plants (and other high impact land uses) and residential dwellings.

The moratorium ordinance notes that the development approvals subject to the moratorium include any active applications or permits where vested rights have not been established.

Asked if the moratorium and the proposed amendments up for adoption at a scheduled public hearing on July 7 would prevent Maymead’s proposed asphalt plant, Watauga County Planning Director Joe Furman and Commissioner Billy Kennedy wouldn’t comment on that direct question after the meeting on Tuesday.

The moratorium ordinance notes that the N.C. General Statues allows for a moratorium to be adopted without holding a public hearing if a “imminent and substantial threat to public health or safety” exists, which is something those opposed to the asphalt plant have stated in the past few weeks.

For more background and information regarding this issue, click here previous stories.

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