With little fanfare, the Buncombe County commissioners appointed seven people to the Environmental Advisory Board at its March 25 meeting. They include two who’ve been attacked by environmentalists for their pro-development stance: Robert Jolly, who’s been the focus of considerable controversy in the past, and real-estate investor (and former billboard-company owner) Mike Summey.
Originally there were only four vacancies, but rather than choose among a wide range of candidates, the commissioners opted to expand the board to 21 members to give them all spots.
“But attendance is sporadic,” noted Commissioner David Young at the meeting. “We don’t expect all 21 to usually attend.”
Jolly was one of several developers of the former Sayles-Biltmore Bleachery site, now a shopping center featuring a Super Wal-Mart. Initially scuttled by the Board of Adjustment in 2000, the highly controversial project was approved two years later amid accusations of influence-buying and concerns about ground-water contamination at the site, storm-water runoff, and other issues.
Asked about the appointments, Chairman Nathan Ramsey called the Sayles contamination controversy “old news,” adding, “Bob’s a good guy. I think we’ve got a good balance on the board.” Ramsey said he’d never attended a meeting of the environmental board, explaining that Vice Chair David Gantt deals more closely with it.
“I think the feeling was they could handle some more members, we had a lot of really good applicants — and we wanted to give them all a chance to serve,” Gantt told Xpress. “It was a pretty good split between people with environmental backgrounds and businesspeople—and that’s what we’re trying to achieve.”
Summey, who owns more than 200 homes, made much of his money with a billboard company, Summey Outdoor Advertising, that was cited for violations just after he sold it in 1999. Neither Jolly or Summey has returned calls for comment.
The other appointees were John Bonham, of the Carolina Mountain Lands Conservancy, Ryan Griffin, owner of the Marble Slab ice cream parlor, Michelle Pugliese, local-protection director for the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, Chris Eller, an architect with Civil Design Concepts and Tony Candler, a local activist.
— David Forbes, staff writer