WEST JEFFERSON — The Town of West Jefferson held a public hearing during the Board of Aldermen meeting on Monday, July 6 to hear community concerns about the proposed Zoning Ordinance Text Amendments.
Consideration of the proposed amendments originated after the town had received many complaints about Rainbow Recycling over the last several years.
Rainbow Recycling is currently Ashe County’s sole salvage yard and has been operating for a total of 30 years with 20 of those years in its current location in West Jefferson. The recycling center is owned and managed by Mark Blevins and has four full-time employees.
Nearly 50 supporters of Rainbow Recycling came before the Board of Aldermen during the public hearing holding signs that read: “Rainbow Recycling makes cents,” “I recycle because I care,” and “Rainbow Recycling helps my family.”
Before the hearing, Town Attorney David Paletta explained each of the six proposed amendments.
According to Paletta, zoning ordinances have two objectives: to protect property values and to balance the competing interest of residential uses and commercial uses.
“The zoning question that arises for the town is how to balance the two competing legitimate interests and come up with some kind of harmony,” Paletta said. “The proposal is not to eliminate salvage yards.”
According to Paletta, there are four basic changes being made to the zoning ordinance including:
•standardize the height requirement of fencing to 8 feet.
•change the use of salvage yards and junk yards from a “permitted use” to “not being permitted.”
•allow salvage yards and junk yards to obtain a conditional use permit.
•salvage yard owners will have three years to come into compliance with requirements.
“This is not something new,” Paletta said. “This is the standard zoning technique that North Carolina uses to balance conflict between commercial uses and residential uses.”
Blevins’ attorney, John Kilby, also spoke during the hearing about his concerns with the amendments.
“What it (the amendment) says is, the board, at the time the conditional use permit is applied for, has to consider the interest of all the businesses, all the property owners and all the residents of West Jefferson,” Kilby said. “I think that’s very subjective.”
According to Kilby, there is no guarantee that even if Blevins spends thousands of dollars to meet the requirements, that in three years the town could still choose to not renew the conditional use permit if there is still an outcry from the community.
“He wants to stay in business, he needs to stay in business,” Kilby said. “I think if you consider the nature of his business, it serves a significantly needed purpose.”
Many supporters spoke of the economical impact the recycling center has on Ashe County. Supporters stated that the money Blevins pays out goes right back into the community.
“If you recycle $50 (worth), that’s $50 in your pocket that’s usually spent right here in West Jefferson on gas, foo and different bills,” Rainbow Recycling supporter Adam Hoosier said. “It’s a vital business that is needed in all cities, in all towns, in all counties.”
According to Rainbow Recycling’s truck driver, Jason Lewis, he hauls out 20,000-40,000 pounds of scrap per week and over 1 million pounds per year.
Blevins said since Jan. 1 of this year, he has bought $87,000 worth of scrap from people in the community and from Jan. 1 of 2014 to Dec. 31 2014, he paid out $245,000.
Others also referenced how the nearest recycling center is in Boone or Wilkesboro and would cost more in gas to haul scrap than what would be paid out.
After the public hearing, the aldermen voted on the six proposed amendments individually. Each amendment passed in a 4-0 vote. Alderman Brett Summey was absent.
Blevins will have three years after the passing of the amendments to obtain a conditional use permit and comply with landscaping and fencing requirements.
Hannah Myers can be reached at 336-846-7164 or on Twitter @cmedia_hmyers.