Commissioners near vote on new ‘High Impact’ ordinance

JEFFERSON-After months of fine tuning and tweaking, Ashe County might soon have a much tougher successor to its Polluting Industries Ordinance.

The Ashe County Board of Commissioners are set to discuss a long awaited new “High Impact Land Use Ordinance” following the Labor Day holiday. The board will meet beginning at 9 a.m. on Sept. 6, at the Ashe County Courthouse.

The road to this point has been an arduous one filled numerous objections from perturbed residents in the Glendale Springs community, who began protesting the prospect of an asphalt plant relocating to their rural community last summer. That backlash became the driving force for a new governing ordinance designed to regulate industries that could unleash pollutants into the air.

During the commissioners’ meeting last month, County Planner Adam Stumb presented maps and variations of what a HILU could look like after taking suggestions from commissioners.

County officials have expressed concerns about writing an ordinance that could be too restrictive in limiting these industries, but at the same time they’ve been careful to protect the county’s natural treasures, like the New River and the land closest to the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Time is of the essence for a new ordinance, as well. The current Polluting Industries Ordinance moratorium is set to expire Oct. 19. Prior to that deadline, the board of commissioners must reach some form of consensus on a draft ordinance, schedule a public hearing and adopt a new ordinance.

Following months of work by the planning board, voting members said they’ve improved the ordinance and made significant changes. The last unanswered question for the board is how the setback is measured and what the final distance will be set at.

The planning board has already recommended a measurement from the HILU – like an asphalt plant – to a protected site, such as a church or school. The second option is to measure from the HILU to their property line.

Gene Hafer, Planning Board Chairman, will be on hand at the meeting on Sept. 6 to answer any question and offer insight into how the ordinance was written.

Reach Jesse Campbell at 336-846-7164.

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