The Watauga County Board of Adjustment affirmed the denial of a high impact land use permit for an asphalt plant near Rainbow Trail by the Watauga County Planning and Inspections Department Friday, Oct. 16.
The appeal process lasted three days and saw evidence and testimony from Appalachian Materials LLC, the Watauga County Planning and Inspections Department and four residents acting as intervening parties in the appeal.
The appeal was originally denied by Joe Furman, director of the Watauga County Planning and Inspections Department, because the facility would be in violation of an ordinance requiring a 15,000 foot buffer zone from an educational facility.
Furman said the plant would have breached the buffer zone for the Gragg Education Center and was missing information that would have helped determine the plant’s viability in terms of other ordinances.
Chad Essick, attorney for Appalachian Materials, argued that the Gragg Educational Center did not fit the category of educational facility as defined by the ordinance and that the building was primarily used for administrative purposes.
Also at issue was a map provided by Joe Furman via email to Derek Goddard, who was hired by Appalachian Materials to assess the site. Goddard said the map provided did not denote a buffer zone for the Gragg Education Center that would impact the Rainbow Trail Site.
Furman said that the map was four years outdated, a fact that he claimed he made Goddard aware of when it was showed to him. Also claiming that he had invited Goddard to view a larger, more comprehensive map at his office.
Essick argued that this caused confusion about the nature of the Gragg center and led his client to invest time and money they otherwise would not have in creating plans and doing surveying the site.
Furman also claimed that the application was missing information that would have given him a better idea about the viability of the site.
Essick said that was not grounds for denying the permit, which did not specifically require the information in question.
Furman claimed that is not the only criteria by which an application for a high impact land permit is judged.
“In administrating an ordinance, you can’t throw common sense out the window,” Furman said.
Many locals were also concerned with the outcome, with as many as 60 people in attendance for Thursday’s hearing.
Acting as intervening parties in the appeal, both Bobby Herring and Sharon Covell testified that the plant would affect them as the planned site would border their property. They were provided representation by High Country WATCH, a chapter of the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League.
Covell, recently diagnosed with asthma, said she was concerned about her health and that the plant would disrupt the peaceful environment.
“We moved here for a safe, quiet environment and I can’t imagine an asphalt plant would be quiet,” Covell said.