JEFFERSON-Following nearly a year of work by Ashe County’s planning board, a finalized version of a high impact land use ordinance could be approved in little more than a month.
The new ordinance, if approved by the Ashe County Board of Commissioners, could feature tightly defined setbacks for so called polluting industries that leave little room for ambiguity or misinterpretation.
County Planner Adam Stumb presented to county commissioners Monday morning a list of potential regulations and stipulations that could be imposed on these types of high impact facilities, which covers things like asphalt plants and rock quarries.
The county first passed its polluting industries ordinance in 1999, and Stumb has said in previous interviews with the Jefferson Post that its language, while adequate for its time, needed to be updated to deal with current day issues.
That ordinance came into question last summer after Appalachian Materials Group filed an application with Stumb’s office seeking approval to build an asphalt plant in Glendale Springs. The proposed plant drew fire from local residents seeking to block its construction.
The Ashe County Board of Commissioners passed a six month moratorium in October designed to give county planners a chance to review its current ordinances and draft new ones if necessary. The move effectively placed the asphalt plant project in limbo.
Commissioners voted in early April to extend the moratorium for another six months through October 2016, and Appalachian Materials Group filed a lawsuit just days later in an attempt to force the county to approve its project.
The company’s complaint alleges that because its application was filed before the county moved to amend its polluting industries ordinance, state law says the moratorium simply doesn’t apply to Appalachian Material’s proposal. That court fight is ongoing.
County officials are now hopeful that a public hearing could be held by the end of September, and that a vote on a new ordinance would quickly follow.
Altogether, Stumb presented the board with four maps with defined setbacks from private home and protected sites, such as the New River and Blue Ridge Parkway.
Following previous discussion on the issue of setbacks, Stumb said it seems to be the consensus of the commissioners and the planning board to base those distance on measurements between “high impact” operations and a person’s property. Stumb said these are known as internal setbacks.
Stumb’s first map included a 2,500-foot buffer between these industries. This map would allow only one site in the entire county for a High Impact Land Use proposal.
The second map, which included a 1,000-foot buffer would open up more potential sites for a high impact facility.
Stumb said the third map, which called for a setback of only 500-foot setback, was even less restrictive.
A fourth map includes a 500-foot setback plus a 2,500-foot setback from the Blue Ridge Parkway and from the New River (both sides) and an exclusion from the county’s two protected watersheds.
Reach Jesse Campbell at 336-846-7164.