Concrete plant hearing halted on a technicality

The status of a proposed north Buncombe concrete plant remains uncertain after a March 12 conditional-use hearing was adjourned midway through.

Gotta testify: Board Chair Martin Lewis, far right, swears in a roomful of speakers before the concrete-plant heating. Photos By Jonathan Welch

The hearing ended abruptly after it was revealed that a letter notifying neighbors of the proposed site outside Weaverville had been mailed nine days before the county Board of Adjustment was slated to consider the matter—rather than the 10 days required by law.

About 150 opponents of the plant showed up, and some grumbled about the venue—a small room on College Street with a maximum capacity of 68 people and no public-address system.

“It was totally inadequate,” said area resident Martha Claxton. “There were 140 or so outside who were never allowed to go in.”

For almost two hours, assorted representatives of the Savannah, Ga.-based Blue Ridge Concrete stated their case. Company owner Mark Turner and local agent Johnny Maroney, as well as engineers and real-estate brokers, called the 13-acre property near the intersection of Murphy Hill Road and the Old Mars Hill Highway an ideal site for the facility.

“This is a great site to locate the plant,” attorney Brian Gulden asserted. Turner already owns three plants—in Savannah and Macon, Ga., and Knoxville, Tenn., he told the board.

Show of resistance: Protesters and concerned residents lined the outside of the College Street building, which held only 68 people.

Opposition to the project has been building in the Murphy Hill Road community during the past year. Residents maintain that the two-lane country road can’t safely accommodate the continual truck traffic associated with such a facility.

Turner estimated that there would be about 86 arrivals and departures per day. Opponents say the number will be higher, pointing out that Murphy Hill Road is the main route used by residents and buses serving nearby schools.

Attorney Chris Ramsey, the son of Murphy Hill resident Hilda Ramsey, challenged the hearing on several fronts—including the insufficient notification period.

About 20 minutes into Ramsey’s testimony, Assistant County Attorney Michael Frue confirmed that discrepancy, and board Chair Martin Lewis promptly adjourned the meeting. If the matter were appealed to Superior Court, the notification issue could leave the county vulnerable to a ruling that the board had lacked jurisdiction, Frue told Xpress.

But the adjournment didn’t sit well with many in the room, some of whom said they’d missed work and waited hours for a chance to speak. Others demanded that the rescheduled hearing be held in a larger venue with a microphone for speakers.

At press time, no date had been set for the hearing, but county Zoning Administrator Jim Coman said discussions are under way to determine a mutually agreeable day. He also said the next hearing would be held in a larger room, most likely in the evening, when most people wouldn’t be working.

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