JEFFERSON-Nearly a year has passed since Ashe County Commissioners put a temporary halt to polluting industries in the county following stern public opposition from local environmentalists, who rallied together to thwart plans for an asphalt plant in Glendale Springs.
Since then, the moratorium has been extended as commissioners worked closely with the county’s planning board to re-write the ordinance to protect citizens and natural resources while at the same time being careful not to exclude these industries outright, which county officials have stated as their intended goal during numerous meetings.
With the moratorium set to expire on Oct. 19 – at which time the county’s old polluting industries ordinance would be reenacted – the commissioners and planning board have been racing the clock to finalize wording for a new ordinance prior to holding a public hearing and voting on the proposal before it is made law.
On Tuesday, commissioners moved closer to adopting a new ordinance after giving the initial go ahead for a new string of setbacks, regulations and a permitting process for industries seeking to set up shop in Ashe County.
Following recommendations and guidance from the county’s planning board, commissioners voted 5-0 to establish setbacks for any proposed high impact land use of 2,000 feet from the HILU area of operation to the protected site. In addition, the setbacks also includes a 1,000 foot measure from the property line to the HILU.
Planning Board Chair Gene Hafer said he believes this route was taken to assure that everyone applying for permits and those living in the area are treated fairly in how distances are measured.
Furthermore, commissioners voted in unison to simplify the proposed ordinance sections of the proposed ordinance. There will now be only one classification that will cover all “high impact” industries.
In an attempt to write a more comprehensive ordinance, commissioners have also left room to revisit or add variance language to the ordinance so decisions of permit approvals are made on a one-to-one basis, as initially proposed by Commissioner Gary Roark.
The long-time commissioner referenced the county’s mountain topography in treating each case and industry differently. Being in a region with rolling hills and deep valleys, Roark said the 2,000 feet might not be adequate in terms of protecting households in areas that are prone to heavy fogs that could trap pollutants.
To visualize distances, the planning board asked County Planner Adam Stumb to provide some examples so they could better grasp what any proposed setback would look like. One of the board’s setbacks of 500 feet was illustrated to the board by having them stand on the court house’s steps. The distance between the top step and Bojangles was 500 feet while a 1,000 foot setback was compared to the distance from the court house to Food Lion in Jefferson.
Hafer also discussed the setback of 2,500 feet, which initially garnered favorable support from environmentalists and some county officials. Hafer, again, cautioned the board in being too restrictive in limiting these industries and to consult the county attorney.
A public hearing on the new proposed ordinance and setbacks is set for Oct. 3.
Reach Jesse Campbell at 336-846-7164.