Guest Post by Erwin
Many of you reading this are not aware of the current status of all things asphalt in Watauga and Ashe Counties, so I hope to provide a succinct update and perhaps an opinion or two thrown in as well.
As a member of the group High Country WATCH, which has led the opposition to the proposed Maymead plant on the scenic byway, as well as the proposed Radford plant near Hardin Park School, I sometimes have a hard time believing this fight has been going on for over three years now. The appeal by Radford is due to be heard in Superior Court sometime this year, and a decision by the North Carolina Court of Appeals in the Maymead case is likely due in the next two months. In a split vote, the Ashe County Planning Board actually approved the Radford permit for a plant near Glendale Springs, a location which is also very near a summer camp for terminally ill children. I have not heard of any further appeal in that case.
We have always believed that if the particulars of the Maymead case got a fair and thorough hearing that the facts would speak loudly, and Maymead would have to go home without being allowed to put that blight of heavy industry on the last somewhat pristine gateway to our community. Having attended the Watauga Board of Adjustments marathon and the two day Superior Court hearing, I can testify that the fair hearing is yet to be had. One example: The superior court judge came to court without having read the briefs, and after the first day he said he would try to read them that evening. Instead, he came to court the next day and proceeded to spend 10 minutes telling the court about the new movie ("Arrival") he had gone to see instead.
A few days before the Appeals Court was scheduled to hear the Maymead case this spring, their lead attorney asked for a continuance claiming he had the flu. That request was denied, and guess who showed up two days later with no symptoms. The surmise is that he didn’t like one of the judges on the panel and was hoping a delay would result in a panel of judges more favorable to Maymead.
So we continue to wait, continue to fundraise ($70,000 has been spent so far on legal fees), continue to hope. In all likelihood, the Maymead case will not be a unanimous decision either way and will end up at the NC Supreme Court. There are also other options including the possibilities of being sent back to the local Board of Adjustments or back to Superior Court. I believe Maymead thought they could wear us down, spend us down, and we would finally give up. We actually almost have, several times, but the continued support of this community has held us together, barely, and what? Ain’t gonna quit now.
A shout out to our legal team, Davis and Whitlock of Asheville, who has stuck with us with greatly reduced rates and tireless research, as well as Watauga County, whose supporting brief in the Appeals Court stage has been a potential game changer.
One of the very best results of this whole process has been that every residence in Watauga County is now much better protected from high impact industry because of the increased setback rules in the amended HILU ordinance. If the county had had the foresight to pass some common sense land-use legislation long ago, like most growing counties, the majority of land-use arguments would never come up. And without that in place, they will keep coming up, so keep your eyes open and help us be a watchdog for responsible development.
www.highcountrywatch, on Facebook, and to contribute to funding for the Maymead case, https://www.gofundme.com/stopdeepgapasphalt