JEFFERSON-Piece by piece, the county’s board of adjustments took apart the county’s reasoning in denying Appalachian Materials a permit to construct an asphalt plant in Glendale Springs Thursday evening.
In a 4-0 decision, the board overturned the county’s 2015 decision in denying the company’s permit to construct a plant off Glendale Springs Road near an existing rock quarry.
Now, another special meeting awaits on which ordinance Appalachian Materials must abide by as it moves forward with its plan: the county’s less stringent Polluting Industries Ordinance passed in the late 1990s or the more restrictive High Impact Land Use Ordinance which the Ashe County Board of Commissioners approved in recent weeks.
Thursday’s decision followed a lengthy six-hour appeal hearing that took place two weeks ago. During that time, testimony was entered by the proposed plant’s parent company and the county’s planning department, which originally denied the permit.
Planning board chairman Gene Hafer spent the first ten minutes of the most recent meeting reviewing the events that led up to the board’s decision including why the permit application for a plant was denied to begin with and the reasoning behind Appalachian Material’s appeal.
Appalachian Materials initially appealed the decision made by the county last year to deny its June 2015 bid to construct an asphalt plant in an existing quarry near a sparsely populated community in the southern end of the county.
The company further claims the county succumbed to political pressure in imposing a moratorium on polluting industries permits.
That moratorium, which eventually lasted nearly a year, has since expired as the county adopted a more stringent “high impact land use” ordinance earlier this fall.
The company’s representatives argue the earlier approval from the planning department is binding and can not be reversed.
The county contended that Appalachian Materials’ application was incomplete at the time it was submitted because it did not include all state and federal permits including, crucially, an air quality permit.
Essentially, the county and its planning department asked the board of adjustments to uphold a letter by county planner Adam Stumb in denying Appalachian Material’s request. The county also requested that the board further deny Appalachian Materials request for a variance that would allow them to construct an asphalt plant.
On Thursday, the board began their discussions on what constitutes a commercial building and if the permit should’ve been denied based on those grounds.
Planning board member Priscilla Cox said the amount of traffic should be considered when defining a commercial building.
Hafer said the weigh station at the site in question should not be considered a commercial building based on findings of fact. His fellow board members agreed.
The board then addressed the county’s contention that the barn on the proposed site was a commercial building and hence, a reason for denying Appalachian Materials’ permit.
Cox said that agriculture uses are sacred in North Carolina and used her chicken coop as an example to make her point that the traffic in such areas did not justify a commercial classification.
“The barn is not a commercial building,” said Cox.
For the sake of consistency, Darrel Hamilton said the barn isn’t a commercial building because it’s not taxed.
Planning board member Rick Surber said the barn in question didn’t have the infrastructure to support the county’s assertion that the barn had a commercial purpose.
Hafer said the ordinance acted to protect individuals and not structures, so it’s not part of the established commercial area and therefore the county did not have grounds for a permit denial in that regard.
The board also took issue with the fact that the county took the applicant’s money for the application and never refunded it.
Reach Jesse Campbell at 336-846-7164.