Neighbors question cement plant

A proposed cement plant in a bucolic area of north Buncombe has neighbors there rallying to stop its construction—and waiting to see what comes next. The proposed site, near the intersection of Murphy Hill Road and Old Mars Hill Highway, is mostly surrounded by residential areas and farmland.

Concrete plans?: A cement-manufacturing company has its eye on this property along Murphy Hill Road in north Buncombe. Neighbors are rallying against the plan. photo by Brian Postelle

The application to build the plant, submitted by Asheville Concrete Inc., drew attention in July, when it was slated for a Board of Adjustment hearing.

“The community isn’t having any of it,” says Martha Claxton, owner of Claxton Farm on Murphy Hill Road. She notes that there is new development coming to the area, but that it is primarily residential. “Nothing stays the same, but some things are more insane than others,” she comments.

Neighbors of the site have complained about the environmental impact of cement plants, which use large amounts of water not just to make their product, but to wash trucks and equipment.

The pollution concerns are not assuaged by the fact that the site, which was recently graded to provide fill dirt for a new fire department nearby, was found in violation of erosion controls by the state Department of Natural Resources. The area has now been seeded and surrounded by netting, and a ruling on any penalties is still pending, says Janet Boyer of the department’s Land Quality Division.

Additionally, say neighbors, some of whom did not want to be named, the plant would use Murphy Hill Road to provide access for incoming and outgoing trucks. That road is already heavily used by residents as well as busses that serve four schools, all of which are within two miles of the site.

The proposal was already yanked from a July agenda of the Buncombe County Board of Adjustment due to problems with the application, and has not yet made it onto another board agenda. At the time of the application, said Buncombe County Planner Jim Coman, the company did not have the required applications for storm-water and erosion-control permits.

Meanwhile, neighbors have been connecting via e-mails, phone calls and door-to-door visits to keep each other abreast of any movement on the plant. The nonprofit activist group Mountain Voices Alliance has also gotten into the game, circulating information about how to contact county officials. But for now, residents are waiting to see if and when the plant gets rescheduled for another Board of Adjustment hearing. Attempts to reach Asheville Concrete Inc. were unsuccessful.

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