Update: Regional Recycling Solutions responds to Pond Road neighbors’ concerns

Many members of the Pond Road community voiced their concern about the proposed reyclling facility’s truck traffic. These concerns are based on their experiences of frequently getting “run off the road” by vehicles (like the one pictured) that cross the center line at curves. Photo by Jim Coddington

In early June, Xpress reported on a controversial proposed recycling facility off of Pond Road in Southwest Asheville, near Enka-Candler.

This Wednesday, July 8, at noon, the Buncombe County Board of Adjustments will vote on whether to approve the conditional use permit for Regional Recycling Solutions, a locally owned business hoping to bring cleaner recycling practices to Western North Carolina.

Since Xpress’ last report, a website against RRS has launched: SavePondRoad.com. “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows,” the group writes, quoting folk musician Bob Dylan. “Well, you don’t need a traffic engineer to know this facility is grossly incapable with the narrow, curved, rural section of Pond Road.”

Listed on the website are the neighbors’ top five reasons for their opposition to the facility: Traffic, odor and noise, out-of-county waste, experimental technology and environmental issues.

“A waste transfer station is kind of like a landfill,” write the creators of the site. “Waste will be hauled and dumped at the facility. Everyone knows how your trash bin can smell after a few days in the summer sun. Therefore, it is no surprise that this facility will create massive odors, not just from the facility itself but also from the trucks transporting all that waste throughout the area. In addition, the facility will process waste with heavy machinery including grinders, front end loaders, crushers, baling presses, air blowers, hydraulic splitters, conveyor belts and industrial hammers. It will sound like a construction site with this heavy machinery and the sounds of semi trucks backing up.”

Xpress cartoonist Randy Molton's take on the Pond Road recycling facility.
Xpress cartoonist Randy Molton’s take on the Pond Road recycling facility.

However, during a May interview with RRS, president Ken Allison explained that his facility is not to be confused with a landfill site — and precautions have been taken to thoroughly reduce and nearly eliminate any chance of escaping sounds and odors. And, though RRS will be different than the typical American recycling facility, it will absolutely not accept or process organic waste.

The confusion comes from the company’s partnership with German-based engineering company Stadler America, as the partners at RRS express that they hope to bring European waste management standards to this side of the Atlantic.

“In Europe, they have a zero-waste [initiative],” Allison told Xpress in late May. Europe is trying to distance itself from reliance on landfills, he said, and nearly everything is either recycled or burned for energy. “In America, we have big, open spaces — a lot of room for a lot of landfills. But in Europe, everything is more compact. They’re under a lot of pressure to do more recycling.”

Implementing practices different than the standard blue-bin-collections, RRS partners believe this is what’s causing the misconception of a landfill-like facility.

“[Curbie] processes recyclables that have already been separated from someone’s home or business,” Allison continued. “My plan is a multistream recycling center [that] can do the kind of separation that doesn’t happen at home.”

What he means is commercial recycling — from factories, businesses, industry and the like, as long as the materials are brought dry to the facility, which will have the ability to separate nonrecyclable from recyclable materials. The facility would not, however, be a drop-off location.

Many neighbors opposing the project have cited the facility as a “dirty MRF,” or a dirty material recovery facility, which “are opposed by waste and recycling groups including National Recycling Coalition, Zero Waste International Alliance, Paper Recycling Coalition, National Waste & Recycling Association, American Forest and Paper Association, Glass Packaging Institute, Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, The Aluminum Association Recycling Coalition and the Steel Recycling Institute,” writes the website’s creator.

But, at a community forum hosted by RRS on May 26, Allison remained adamant that his facility is not a dirty MRF — and that, because those facilities are generally considered outdated and a poor investment, the partners at RRS would not be looking into this type of technology.

On July 3, Allison and his business partners sent out a letter to neighbors of Pond Road and to Xpress, proposing solutions to the problems addressed at the May community forum.

“Many of the residents have concerns over traffic safety, which is a primary concern of Regional Recycling Solutions as well,” Allison writes in the letter. “Regional Recycling understands these concerns and is prepared to take the following actions based upon the neighborhood feedback we received.”

Actions to address traffic include restricting facility traffic to only the Brevard Road access point, scheduling facility traffic at off-peak hours, prohibiting trucks use any shortcuts to the facility and petitioning the state to straighten the curve on the boundary of the RRS property, increasing safety while not affecting any neighbors’ lands.

For property value concerns, Allison references his tree nursery in Transylvania County, saying that he will use his trees to landscape, create a visual barrier to the facility and “increase the visual appeal of the property.” All operations will be kept indoors, Allison writes, and RRS will be committed to keeping the roadways and property clear all all debris.

Pond Road neighbor Jim Rodgers wrote Xpress the same day we received Allison’s letter, mentioning that he and “at least 44” others will be arriving at the July 8 meeting on a bus adorned with banners “urging the defeat of the RRS Pond Road site.” Others will arrive separately, and Rodgers says he expects well over 100 people to attend the meeting and make their voices heard.

For a full list of neighbors’ concerns, visit SavePondRoad.com or read Xpress’ previous story, from the May 26 community forum.

For the full letter and the solutions promised by RRS, read below:


Dear Regional Recycling Solutions Neighbors,

I would like to thank all of you for attending the Community Forum we held at the A-B Tech Enka campus. As a locally owned business in Western North Carolina, we are committed to preserving the natural and environmental beauty of our region through responsible growth and development. As a local resident and president of Regional Recycling Solutions, I am committed to the values of sustainability, community and responsible economic development. Regional Recycling wants to be both a good neighbor and a responsible employer in Buncombe County for many years to come.

In order to make our recycling project the best it could be, we held the Community Forum meeting to receive feedback and take into account neighborhood concerns. We wanted to hear these concerns so that we could address them in our project design. Because of this meeting, and after working with our project staff and consultants, we have developed a plan to address those community concerns that can be controlled by Regional Recycling Solutions.

During the meeting, many neighbors expressed support for our state of the art recycling project, acknowledging that the business concept benefits our region and reflects our shared community values. The support was tempered with concerns centering on the impact the project may have on the regional neighborhoods. These concerns are understandable and were focused around the following issues: traffic safety, site location and property values.

With the intention of being a responsible and responsive neighbor to the community, Regional Recycling Solutions looked at different ways we could mitigate these issues, and we developed modifications to our project plan taking into consideration some of the issues raised at our Community Forum.

The primary concern, which was raised on multiple occasions, by almost all who chose to speak, was the impact our facility would have on traffic and the associated issue of traffic safety. Below are some of the relevant points surrounding this issue and the steps Regional Recycling solutions will take to minimize our impact.

Traffic Concerns

Traffic Volume and Safety:
Regional Recycling engaged one of the leading consultants in the region to analyze the traffic impact of our facility. The comprehensive report was completed in compliance with all state DOT criteria. The report concluded that this facility, in a worst-case scenario (operating 24 hours per day at full capacity) would have less than a 2.5 percent impact on overall traffic volumes. This is a relatively small impact and one that the DOT has determined is within the capacity of state roads.

As with many roads in WNC, high traffic volumes at peak hours can create delays and often people are traveling during these high traffic periods, making the thought of ANY more traffic unpleasant.

Residents of the neighborhoods located primarily to the West and Northwest of the project (most over 4,000 feet from the facility) expressed concerns about using McIntosh Road and West Oakview Road as “cut-throughs” to avoid high traffic volumes.

Additionally, many of the residents have concerns over traffic safety, which is a primary concern of Regional Recycling Solutions as well.

Regional Recycling understands these concerns and is prepared to take the following actions based upon the neighborhood feedback we received.

Regional Recycling Solutions Plan:

1. Restrict traffic flow into the facility to Brevard Road access point. Regional Recycling will restrict all of our company-owned truck traffic exclusively to the Brevard Road entrance. This will limit access through Sardis Road, which has the most traffic congestion. The majority of all third party truck traffic will also be scheduled for access through Brevard Road.

2. Scheduling. Regional Recycling will schedule vehicles into and out of the facility to limit traffic during heavy traffic (rush hour) periods. Given our facility design and the nature of recycling schedules, we will do our best to schedule most of our traffic volume at off-peak traffic times.

3. Vehicle Tracking and Security. Regional Recycling will be tracking all traffic into and out of the facility using automated time-stamped photography. This will ensure that we understand our vehicle traffic and have the ability to keep our truck traffic accountable.

4. Prohibit Use of “Cut-Through” Roads. Regional Recycling will prohibit any vehicles which service our facility from using McIntosh or W. Oakview (primarily residential streets) to access our facility. Restricting our facility access to Brevard Road will virtually eliminate these cut-throughs as a viable option.

Additionally, Regional Recycling will petition the state to allow us to erect signage at the entrance of these streets limiting traffic to residential traffic only.

5. Establish Community Hotline. Regional Recycling Solutions will establish a Community Hotline specifically for neighborhood reporting of improper vehicle protocol. Given that all vehicles entering the facility will be photographed, time-stamped and weighed, we will be able to quickly and efficiently manage any reporting.

6. Petition State to Allow Regional Recycling to Remove the Curve on Regional Recycling Property. Regional Recycling will petition the state to allow Regional Recycling Solutions to remove and straighten the curve located on the Regional Recycling property. Removal of this curve will increase sight distance and create a safer operating environment. No third party property would be impacted.

7. Petition State to Adjust Height of Embankment. Regional Recycling will petition the state to reduce the height of the embankment located west of the intersection of McIntosh Road and Pond Road to increase sight distance for all vehicular traffic.

8. Coordinate Efforts to Petition the State DOT to Prioritize Upgrades to the Brevard/Sardis Road Corridors. Regional Recycling will work with our neighbors in the community to coordinate a sustained effort to prioritize road upgrades to this corridor to address the volume issues.

Additional community concerns revolved around the appropriate use of the property and the associated property values of our residential neighbors. Regional Recycling is committed to being a conscientious and responsive neighbor and our plan to address these relevant issues are detailed below.

Land Use and Property Value Concerns

Land Use:
A variety of neighbors questioned the appropriate use of this property for Regional Recycling Solutions commercial facility. Numerous residents thought that either residential or agricultural uses would be more appropriate.

It is important to understand that the current zoning for the Regional Recycling property is as an employment district pursuant to the County’s Master Plan. This zoning classification eliminates the possibility of either residential or agricultural development for this parcel, without a change in the zoning. The County has determined that the highest and best use of this property given its location, access and the surrounding businesses is for a commercial/industrial facility.

The zoning definition of an Employment District (EMP) is as follows:

Employment District (EMP): The EMP Employment District is primarily intended to provide appropriately located sites for employment concentrations primarily for office uses, industrial uses, storage and warehousing, and wholesale trade.

Although certain neighbors would prefer to have this land used for agricultural purposes, it is not zoned as such and has not been for many, many years. We believe that, as a local company under local ownership, we will be a commercial operation that will be responsive to the neighborhood and strive to maintain the integrity of the residential communities in close proximity. Regional Recycling Solutions has already completed all of the state criteria for our permitted activities including all relevant environmental and operational permitting requirements.

Property Value:

Property value becomes a very personal issue and in most instances any changes to the use of property in close proximity to the property we currently own is seen as potentially reducing the property value.

Regional Recycling Solutions is truly sensitive to this issue, and it is our intention to build a commercial facility that will be visually appealing with all operations occurring in an enclosed building. The facility will be far more attractive than any other commercial operation on Pond Road. Given that I also run a wholesale nursery operation, we will be landscaping the facility to create a beautiful impression and one which any neighbor would be proud to pass on a daily basis.

It is our hope that our attention to visual beauty and environmental sustainability will actually increase the value of both our property and all properties in the area.

In order to establish our commitment to the local community, Regional Recycling Solutions is prepared to commit to the following as a result of the community forum.

Regional Recycling Solutions Plan:

1. Establish an Educational Facility to Support the Community. Regional Recycling Solutions will establish a separate Educational Facility located on the grounds, which will provide educational programs for local schools and organizations relevant to recycling and environmental sustainability. Regional Recycling will make this facility available to community groups on a pre-scheduled basis.

2. Keep all Operations Indoors. All of Regional Recycling Solutions’ recycling operations, including truck unloading, will be kept indoors, under cover, using state of the art processing systems to ensure that there will be minimal impact on the property and environment.

3. Use Landscaping to Create Visual Barriers. Regional Recycling will use landscaping to enhance the environmental sustainability of the site (rain gardens) as well as increase the visual appeal of the property.

4. Maintain Clean Roadways. Regional Recycling Solutions will commit to keeping the roadways through our property and up to 1,000 feet on either side of our property entrance clean and free of all debris.

Regional Recycling Solutions is sincerely grateful for the community input we have received to date.

While we understand that we will not be able to make everyone happy, we have done our best to respond to the salient issues. We believe that your input has helped us to improve our facility plans, making our facility better for the community.

Sincerely,
Ken Allison
Regional Recycling Solutions, LLC

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About Hayley Benton
Current freelance journalist and artist. Former culture/entertainment reporter at the Asheville Citizen-Times and former news reporter at Mountain Xpress. Also a coffee drinker, bad photographer, teller of stupid jokes and maker-upper of words. I can be reached at hayleyebenton [at] gmail.com. Follow me @HayleyTweeet

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