JEFFERSON-Although it’s been a long and arduous road for all parties involved, it appears the fractured pavement is far from settling in the debate surrounding a proposed asphalt plant in Glendale Springs.
On Thursday, the Ashe County Planning Board provided the backdrop for a controversial public hearing centered on the question of whether the proposed project should be allowed to operate to a new stage – or not.
Following last month’s ruling that reversed the Ashe County Planning Department’s earlier decision in denying Appalachian Materials a permit to construct a plant in Glendale Springs, the county adopted an order proposed by AM that effectively says the permit should have been issued under the polluting industries ordinance initially in place and not the new one.
According to state law, “if a permit applicant submits a permit for any type of development and a rule or ordinance changes between the time the permit application was submitted and a permit decision is made, the permit applicant may choose which version of the rule or ordinances will apply.”
“The Board of Adjustments ordered that Appalachian’s permit be issued under the PIDO (original polluting industries ordinance) as required by the Permit Choice statutes. Appalachian is obviously very pleased with this ruling,” said Appalachian Materials Manager D.J. Cecile.
Appalachian Materials originally applied for a permit under the county’s old polluting industries ordinance, but was ultimately denied. This led Appalachian Materials to appeal that decision to the county’s board of adjustments. The initial permit application and rumors of such a plant also triggered the subsequent moratoriums on these industries and protests from the Glendale Springs community.
Despite Thursday’s ruling, the planning board said the permit won’t likely be issued any time soon and a lengthy appeal process, as well as a stay or order, will likely happen.
Cecile said it would be premature to comment on any appeal at this time.
There is no definitive timeline for construction of a plant either.
“Appalachian would need to consult its legal team before commenting on construction,” said Cecile.
The ongoing saga concerning the plant resulted in a nearly one year moratorium on high impact or polluting industries while county officials sorted out the legality of allowing an asphalt plant to operate in the southern end of the county. In the end, county commissioners were also tasked with approving a more stringent
approving a superseding ordinance as the fallout of the proposed plant began to settle.
Appalachian Materials has since found itself embroiled in a quasi legal and political battle for the authorization it needs to move forward with the project. The company was initially denied a permit although its leaders said earlier indications from the Ashe County Planning department led them to believe there would be no hold ups in the issuance of all appropriate documents.
The company also said the county succumbed to political pressure in imposing the moratorium and denying the permit.
It’s long contended the earlier approval from the planning department is binding and can not be reversed, which Appalachian Materials argues should be justification enough to issue the permit.
Last month, 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.
In a 4-0 decision in October, the board overturned the county’s 2015 decision in denying the company’s permit to construct a plant.
They ruled that a weigh station and a barn did not meet the criteria of being a commercial or residential interest and therefore the proposed 1,000-foot setback needed to construct the plant was not violated. The planning department initially made the assertion that plans for the plant would’ve encroached on these buildings.
On Thursday, the county and Appalachian Materials reconvened to determine under which ordinance the plant should operate under.
Many self proclaimed environmentalists said they were dumbfounded by the board’s decision to reverse the planning department’s earlier decision to deny a permit to Appalachian Materials and told the planning department that the protests will continue.
One Realtor said she’s already lost two clients due to the proposed asphalt plant.
Victoria Randolph, of West Jefferson, said she was particularly concerned about the environmental impact an asphalt plant could have on the county. She listed the New River and Camp New Hope – a retreat for terminally ill kids – as reasons for the county to deter such industries in such sensitive areas. Randolph also expressed concern about the potential for fire danger and explosions that she says come with such plants.
Camp New Hope Director Randy Brown fought back tears as she commended those who came to Thursday’s planning board meeting to speak on the behalf of the terminally ill children, which became a major rallying point for the plant’s opposition.
“There has to be places somewhere,” Brown implored the board. “I hope you search your heart and think what this will do to these families.”
Reach Jesse Campbell at 336-846-7164.