There is an aspect other than traffic overload that [a recent] Mountain Xpress article missed, and that is environmental impact [“Developer Proposes 697 Residential Units West of City,” March 11]. And reflecting on the consequences of previous environmental actions.
Five years ago, the referenced “mulch and compost business” that now exists on the 83-acre proposed development site was much more. It was an 80-plus-head Black Angus cattle farm, which also leased about 60 additional adjacent acres. This 140-acre farm was wooded pastureland, with Hominy Creek running through it and along the southeastern border. It was a family farm for two-three generations, but its days were numbered as family interest in supporting the farm business was fading.
The mulch and compost business was a sideline with a solid reputation among gardeners and landscapers. The cow manure ingredient was supplemented by organic waste from the Farmers Market and many area restaurants. The product was economical and by far the best around, with customers throughout Western North Carolina, to include me.
Unfortunately, during a heavy rain event in December 2015, the manure-holding basin overflowed. The overflow had been straight piped to a back cove on Hominy Creek, a violation of a state operating permit. The resulting high E. coli bacteria spike in Hominy Creek was detected by MountainTrue stream monitoring.
Fines were levied on the farm, and remediation steps were in place, all administered and overseen by county and state environmental agencies. After a Jan. 13, 2016, article was run by the Asheville Citizen Times, the federal EPA got involved. The ensuing additional fines, legal fees and public humiliation greatly contributed to hastening the demise of this farm.
The approximately 60-acre leased wooded acreage, shown to the right of “subject property” in the Mountain Xpress article aerial photo, was the first to fall to developers. Almost all trees (many mature oaks) cut down, topsoil scraped off, road beds and numerous house lots, with the flood plain bordering Hominy Creek filled in. Those trees shown in the aerial photo are now almost all gone. Now the main farm is going.
Since the Angus herd has left, Hominy Creek E. coli and sediment pollution has actually worsened. During the French Broad River E. coli outbreak last summer, Hominy Creek was a primary E. coli source. The farm was never part of the ongoing problems.
So, in place of a large wooded farm, which was in violation of permit, we will have 140 acres of treeless, impermeable surfaces and a filled-in flood plain. Nothing has been done to improve imperiled Hominy Creek water quality, only making it worse.
I have asked local environmentalists and regulators about this sequence of events. The answer has always been the same: What the farm did was illegal; what the developers are doing is legal. Drastic loss of the deciduous tree canopy, stormwater surges, erosion and sedimentation. County zoning, so, no problem.
This is referred to as “unintended consequences.” We trade an isolated E. coli spike into a polluted, imperiled stream for the destruction of a watershed.
— Bill Miller