JEFFERSON-The group tasked with writing the local ordinance that will govern future “high-impact” operations – like rock quarries and asphalt plants – came a step closer to finishing it work last week.
Several members of the Ashe County Planning Board even seemed ready on Jan. 7, to approve the new “High Impact Land Use Ordinance” and pass it along to Ashe County Board of Commissioners. Lingering issues forced the five member planning board to put the vote on hold, however, until Jan. 21.
“I wouldn’t call this a final draft, but this is what I’ll call pretty darn close,” Ashe County Planner Adam Stumb said. “Everytime I look at it I find a technical error, but other than that I feel like the meat of the ordinance is sufficient.”
How’d we get here
The Ashe County Planning Department received a formal application from Appalachian Materials for an asphalt plant at the end of June 2015. 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.
In interviews last summer, Stumb said the plant would have to meet state and federal requirements before his office could issue a permit under the county’s Polluting Industries Ordinance which was passed in the early 2000s, in response to Tri-County Paving’s attempt to build an asphalt plant.
Local environmental advocates campaigned against the plant for months and asked the Ashe County Board of Commissioners to approve a temporary moratorium on polluting industries, a move which commissioners unanimously approved on Oct. 19.
That measure placed a six month hold on the construction of the Glendale Springs asphalt plant until April 19, 2016. Commissioners also reserved the right to renew the moratorium for an additional six months, if necessary, at that time.
In the interim, commissioners instructed the planning board to review and update the county’s polluting industries ordinance. The High Impact Land Use Ordinance – which is nearing completion – is the result of those discussions.
Gene Hafer, chairman of the Ashe County Planning Board, said his committee worked with Stumb and other experts to review similar ordinances in counties across the state.
Still, members of the planning board, along with D.J. Cecile, manager of Appalachian Materials, sought clarification about certain portions of the proposed ordinance.
Cecile, in particular, told board members certain portions of the ordinance – including sections pertaining to vegetative buffers designed to protect streams and the way roads should be constructed to cut down on dust – are redundant due to state and federal regulations already on the books.
“Our goal was to attempt to anticipate possible problems where we could,” Hafer said. “To that end, many of these were drawn from other county ordinances elsewhere.”
Cecile said following the meeting he appreciated the opportunity to share his concerns with planning board members.
Stumb said the ordinance said changes will be made to the proposed ordinance and it will be sent to the North Carolina School of Government and Ashe County Attorney John Kilby for review. The board will vote on the ordinance at its next meeting on Jan. 21. The version approved at that meeting will be passed to the Ashe County Board of Commissioners who can vote to adopt or change the ordinance as it sees fit.
Reach Adam Orr at 336-489-3058 or Twitter.com/AdamROrr.