GLENDALE SPRINGS — Residents of Glendale Springs called for a moratorium on any new asphalt plants in Ashe County in a statement released on Monday.
In a letter to the Ashe County Board of Commissioners, the group also reported that “major alterations to the site” have been observed, raising concerns about air pollution and vested rights.
“No official authorization for site preparation has been granted for Appalachian Materials’ proposed asphalt plant on Glendale School Road,” said Louis Zeller, executive director of Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League and author of the letter, citing a court decision which ruled that vested rights come only with a lawful permit, not by premature development of industrial or commercial sites. “We raised the issue of vested rights because we have seen asphalt companies try to bulldoze their way to getting what they want.”
The Ashe County Planning Department received a formal application from Appalachian Materials for an asphalt plant at the end of June. The proposal stated the plant would sit on a 30-acre land parcel on Glendale School Road next to an existing rock quarry owned and operated by Radford Quarries.
According to Ashe County Planning Director Adam Stumb, before the asphalt plant can be granted a permit, it has to receive federal and state permit to meet the Polluting Industries Ordinance act passed in the early 2000s in response to Tri-County Paving attempting to build an asphalt plant.
The proposed plant must be at least 1,000 feet from a residential area and 1,320 feet from any school, hospital, church or daycare.
Residents of Glendale Springs recently formed a working committee called Protect Our Fresh Air. During the last month, meetings of Protect Our Fresh Air have doubled its attendance, drawing local business owners, farmers, retired people and young families.
“The amount of airborne pollutants would be staggering — over 200,000 pounds a year,” Paul Wetzel, a member of POFA, said. “Emissions from asphalt plants would have a negative effect on our health, especially for the elderly and children.”
He pointed out that Camp New Hope, a free camp for terminally ill children and their families, is less than a half-mile from the proposed plant. The asphalt plant would be less than a mile from Holy Trinity Church.
“Vibrations from heavy trucks hauling gravel from the quarry are already causing damage to the frescoes,” Wetzel said. “We sure don’t need any more trucks on Glendale School Road.”
“Glendale Springs is the Ashe County gateway to our $50 million tourism industry,” said Pat Considine, a founder of Protect Our Fresh Air. “The frescoes at Holy Trinity draw visitors from around the world.
“An asphalt plant in Glendale Springs would have a severe economic impact on the county,” added Considine. “It would affect real estate values, Christmas tree production, cattle production and, of course, tourism with the pollution in our air and waterways.”
Earlier this month, members of POFA requested a 30-day public comment period from the state Division of Air Quality and the state approved the request.
“The growth of enterprises based on agriculture, historic sites, geographic features, artistic merit and environmental quality require a review of the ordinance to strengthen it and to ensure its continued effectiveness for the benefit of all Ashe County residents,” said Zeller.
The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League was founded in 1984 in Glendale Springs by people from Virginia and North Carolina concerned about a national nuclear waste dump in the southern Appalachian Mountains. The public education campaign launched by the league and others helped to create regional resistance and the U.S. Department of Energy abandoned the plan in 1988.
According to the group, Protect Our Fresh Air became a recognized chapter of the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League on Aug. 20.
Originally, a public notice was sent out on Aug. 28 for a special called meeting at 10 a.m. on Sept. 1 for the Ashe County commissioners to enter into executive session to consult with County Attorney John Kilby in regards to this issue. However, a concerned citizen, David A. Eastburn, pointed out an incorrect statute citation used to justify the meeting. After consulting with Kilby, the commissioner meeting was canceled and instead there will be a public hearing during the regularly scheduled commissioner meeting on Tuesday morning.
“I will be looking forward to making our presentation to the commissioners. I am confident they will support the people of Ashe County instead of major international businesses that don’t care about Ashe County,” said Considine. “In the ’70s, we defeated Appalachian Power, now we have to defeat Appalachian Materials to keep from polluting our air.”
While the proposal for the asphalt plant was made by Radford Quarries, the power behind it comes from a much larger group, Appalachian Materials and Old Castle Materials, according to Considine. OCM is the top asphalt producer in the United States and the top asphalt paver in the nation as well. The closest asphalt location operated by the company is in West Virginia.
Attempts to reach Radford Quarries, who made the proposal for the asphalt plant, were unsuccessful on Wednesday.
Nathan Ham can be reached at 336-846-7164 or followed on Twitter @NathanHam87