Concrete plans not yet firm

Plans for a concrete plant outside Weaverville have resurfaced. A hearing for a conditional-use permit for the facility is on the agenda for the Buncombe County Board of Adjustment’s March 12 meeting. The announcement has neighbors of the Murphy Hill Road site scrambling once again to oppose the project.

In the crosshairs: This north-Buncombe property is now owned by Blue Ridge Concrete Properties LLC, but neighbors are still trying to stop a concrete plant there. Photo By Brian Postelle

The proposed location, near the intersection of Murphy Hill Road and the Old Mars Hill Highway, has drawn community attention since last July, when an application for the conditional-use permit was submitted by a company called Asheville Concrete Inc. (now known as Blue Ridge Concrete Properties LLC). The original permit hearing was pulled from the agenda due to problems with the application, and several subsequent scheduled appearances before the board have also been canceled.

Area residents say the site is woefully inappropriate for a variety of reasons. Neither the two-lane Murphy Hill Road nor the Old Mars Hill Highway intersection can handle the anticipated high rate of truck traffic, they maintain. And the property’s proximity to neighborhoods and schools makes it a poor site for a concrete plant that will have significant environmental impacts.

Back in August 2006, Buncombe County tax documents show, James Council, the property’s original owner, had leased it to Shepherd Enterprises Inc., owned by Weaverville resident Jackie Shepherd, with an option to purchase. While leasing the property, Shepherd Enterprises contracted to sell it to Blue Ridge Concrete, according to the documents. Blue Ridge Concrete—which has a mailing address in Weaverville but is based in Savannah, Ga.—bought the 13-acre property in January of this year. It isn’t clear whether Shepherd ever completed his purchase of the property.

Shepherd, meanwhile, remains under house arrest awaiting trial in an illegal-gambling case involving another company he owns, Western Amusement Inc.

According to other planning documents, Blue Ridge Concrete has also applied for an erosion and storm-water permit, but county Zoning Administrator Jim Coman told Xpress that the permit has not yet gone through. Meanwhile, Weaverville Town Manager Michael Morgan confirmed that the town has agreed to supply water to the plant, if approved. But, he added, the water deal is contingent on Blue Ridge Concrete’s installing an extension line to the nearby water line. Still, residents aren’t convinced that the line can provide enough water for the plant and its trucks.

“That, along with everything else, has everybody very worried,” says county resident Tim Calloway, who is part of a loosely organized grass-roots effort utilizing e-mails, phone calls and fliers to try to muster opposition for the March 12 meeting. According to a letter circulated by a group calling itself the North Buncombe Association of Concerned Citizens, “A large, well organized turnout is the community’s best chance of preventing the concrete plant from being built.”

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