Postmark causes adjournment in overflowing concrete hearing

A proposed North Buncombe concrete plant hearing before the Buncombe County Board of Adjustment was adjourned after two hours of testimony due to insufficient notification of the project’s neighbors — and with scores of members of the public left standing outside on the sidewalk because of inadequate hearing-room space.

The concrete plant, proposed for Murphy Hill Road, has already stirred community outcry from neighbors who maintain the property is not suitable for that use.

And a March 12 hearing before the Board of Adjustment was cut short — after testimony from representatives of the plant and two opposing speakers — once it surfaced that letters notifying adjacent landowners of the hearing were mailed nine days earlier. By law, those letters had to be mailed at least 10 days before the hearing.

Assistant County Attorney Michael Frue approached board chair Martin Lewis with the recommendation he adjourn the meeting, which Lewis did after some discussion with the audience.

Though the letters were ready to be mailed on Feb. 28, the letter in question was postmarked March 3, only nine days prior, Frue explained to Xpress. If the board made a ruling on the plant, that slip-up could result in a jurisdictional problem should the case be appealed, he said.

The adjournment means the process will start all over again with a new application from Blue Ridge Concrete. County Zoning Administrator Jim Coman told Xpress that discussions are underway to find a date for another hearing, but that Blue Ridge Concrete will not have to resubmit its application.

The meeting lasted more than three hours (a hearing on another matter had been held immediately prior to the concrete-plant hearing). Most opponents of the plant could not fit into the small hearing room, which holds less than 100 people. While the concrete-plant representatives were given first choice of seating, opponents to the plant alternated taking seats inside the hearing.

After many waited in a line around the block or had to leave before getting a chance to speak, some inside the room demanded that the next hearing be held in a larger venue capable of handling the size of crowd that turned out.

For a look at the crowd that came out to speak on the issue, watch the video below.

Brian Postelle, staff writer


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One thought on “Postmark causes adjournment in overflowing concrete hearing

  1. Cecil Bothwell

    I attended the hearing, or, more accurately, I stood outside with a crowd of citizens who had arrived to express their concern about the proposed plant. Having signed up at 11:30 a.m. to address the Board of Adjustment, I was finally admitted to the “hearing” at about 1:45 p.m. when testimony from the Blue Ridge Concrete witnesses was all but complete. So much for “hearing.”

    How the BOA could pretend that it was holding a “public hearing” is beyond me, since more than 100 members of the public who wanted to participate never got past the door.

    If I were a sitting member of the Board of Commissioners I would insist that the next iteration of this hearing, or any hearing on a similarly controversial subject, be held in a larger venue. I would also insist that all testimony at such hearings be via amplified microphone. I was not alone in being unable to hear much of what went on when I was finally admitted to the proceedings.

    Finally, I believe we need to look hard at the big picture. Residents were promised that zoning would protect them, their children and their property from deleterious development. Concrete plants are one of a few specific uses that are not a use-by-right in an open zoned location. Why, then, does a concrete plant appear to be on a fast-track for approval? Why do citizens have to take time off work and stand for hours in the chill wind hoping to defend against what they had been assured would never happen, while well-paid representatives of the invading corporation sat in the warm confines of the meeting space?

    And now, thanks to a procedural error, those citizens will have to do it all again, in hopes that their government officials will listen.

    Yes, I’m running for the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners and you can chalk this up to political speech if you like. But this sort of thing will not be tolerated on my watch, if I’m given the chance.

    I applaud the citizens who showed up to make their voices heard and urge others across the county to support their effort. They have hired an attorney to uphold their cause and you can send checks to the North Buncombe Association of Concerned Citizens, 240 Upper Flat Creek Rd. Weaverville NC 28787. My check is in the mail.

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