Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Black Day in Watauga County

The Watauga County Commissioners came out of a closed session yesterday morning -- where they were discussing their own Board of Adjustment's decision in the Maymead asphalt case on the Doc & Merle Watson Scenic Byway -- and voted along party lines, 3-2, not to appeal the BOA decision to Superior Court.

Republicans Jimmy Hodges, David Blust, and Perry Yates voted no. Democrats Billy Kennedy and John Welch voted yes.

Blust and Yates will now have to answer for that in the November elections, as they are running for reelection. May we suggest an appropriate campaign slogan: "Keep Good Ole Boy Politics Alive in Watauga!"

The fix was in for Maymead. Perry Yates wouldn't meet with community members who had organized against the asphalt plant in their neighborhood -- saying repeatedly that he hadn't yet read the order issued by the BOA (the order was released March 22) -- though he had no problem at all meeting with Maymead president Wiley Roark prior to yesterday's vote. Apparently, Yates didn't get around to reading the BOA order until he voted, which is good enough if you're keeping good ole boy politics alive in Watauga. (Incidentally, Maymead president Wiley Roark made the rounds to all the elected commissioners.)

The attorney for High Country Watch, the citizens group opposing Maymead, wrote extensive analysis of the BOA decision and strongly recommended that the County Commission appeal the BOA decision. After all, the High Country Watch lawyers were on the same side with the county's special counsel during the several very long BOA hearings, arguing that County Planning Director Joe Furman had been correct to revoke the asphalt plant permit originally given to Johnny Hampton.

That attorney's analysis was shared with the County Commission (but we won't take bets on whether Perry Yates even read it). You can bet that County Attorney Stacy C. "Four" Eggers read it and persuaded the Republican commissioners in their closed session yesterday morning to ignore it. Where Good Ole Boy politics reign, the squint-eyed man is king!

Here's some of what attorney James Whitlock wrote:
...Fundamentally, the BOA Order suffers from an erroneous application of the doctrine of common law vested rights as established/interpreted by North Carolina courts, resulting in a decision that is based on errors of law, is not supported by substantial evidence, and is arbitrary and capricious. In particular, it is my opinion that the BOA's finding of common law vested rights based on substantial expenditures by JW Hampton Company and Maymead would result in reversal by the Superior Court because neither of these entities are the HILU [High Impact Land Use] Permit holder. Under North Carolina law, a party's common law right to develop and/or construct vests when the following four elements are met: (1) the owner has made substantial expenditures; (2) the expenditures were made in good faith; (3) the expenditures were made in reliance on a valid government approval authorizing the use requested by the owner; and (4) the owner would be harmed without a vested right [case citations omitted].... In regards to (1) above, the North Carolina Supreme Court has expressly held that only expenditures by the permit holder are pertinent to a common law vested rights analysis [case citations omitted].
The BOA Order, while expressly finding that Johnny Hampton was the HILU permit holder, has no factual findings related to any expenditures by Mr. Hampton in reliance on the HILU Permit, because there was no evidence of any such expenditures. Further, the BOA Order has no finding, because there was no evidence to support such a finding, that Mr. Hampton ever legally transferred the HILU Permit to either JW Hampton Company or Maymead. As a result, based on the North Carolina Supreme Court's decision in Town of Hillbsborough v Smith, any expenditures made by JW Hampton Company and/or Maymead are irrelevant to a common law vested rights analysis, and the BOA findings in this regard are erroneous as a matter of law and should be overturned....
Yesterday was a black day for legal procedure but more importantly a black day for the health and well being of hundreds of citizens who looked to Watauga County government to put the interests of voters above the continued practice of good ole boy politics.


Anonymous said...

From my dealings with our County Commission, David Blust NEVER reads anything and I'm not sure about Perry Yates, but I doubt it. They wait for Four Eggers to tell them, or Deron, or Joe Furman. They are men being led by their noses and manipulated by smarter guys with plenty of ulterior motives. Billy Kennedy reads EVERYTHING, in contrast, and actually thinks about it.

Anonymous said...

It was an awful day - the Republican commissioners showcased their disdain for anyone not a Hampton. The witnesses lied under oath; the board established terrible land use precedent and the commissioners are allowing a massive asphalt plant on the 421 Scenic Byway, near the New River, which will be polluted by the toxic fallout from the 100 tons of toxins emitted each year. The children at Parkway and Two Rivers are not helped by this plant. Nearby families are not helped by this plant. Boone water supply is at risk from all the toxins.

Astonishing to see elected officials so uninterested in protecting their county. Instead, they protected Maymead. There is NO benefit to Watauga County from this development. Wondering how the commissioners benefit. I hope those who voted in favor of Maymead are voted out in November.

Unknown said...

This is heart wrenching ..we love our home and have been through so much to get here. Now here comes this discusting plant to poison my children and my family... Not only do we live close to this location but have a child at Two Rivers who will be at Parkway next year. Not to mention all the pollution to our air and water...Its just sad because we have no rights here...they just basically told us they dont care aboit our childrens future. Smh ..Maybe if we start a gofundme page we can raise enough money to persuade a certain "good ol boy" to reconsider....just sayin...looks like money wins over health and safety.

Unknown said...

Maybe we shouldve started a go fund me page to get enough money together to change this "good ol boys" mind, wins over health, happiness, and safety...makes me sick that we now have to move from a home we love and a school our son loves....what a loss for Watauga county and what a loss for our family.... :(

Anonymous said...

We are also close to the massive industrial zone on the 421 Scenic Byway and we are also considering moving away from Watauga County. There was no legal or rational reason for the commissioners to side with an out-of-state asphalt company. There is nothing gained for the county. One wonders what the commissioners have gained by voting to industrialize the gateway to the High Country.

It was indeed a very black day for Watauga County.

Anonymous said...

Don't let the door hit you in the ass on your way out.

Anonymous said...

The only way you can ever win against these criminals (the corrupt GOP county commissioners) is to sue them.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:45 obviously works for Welcome Wagon and is just the bestest big Christian ever!

Anonymous said...

Everyone seems to think that the Commissioners and the Board were bought by Maymead - and a lot of people seem to think that's standard operating procedure here in Watauga - the commissioners are crooked. Is that true? Why do people put up with this?

Unknown said...

Putting the politics aside, why are people so against the asphalt plant? Do we all not enjoy a well paved road or parking lot? Why should the residents of other counties live with a plant in their backyard to supply Watauga with pavement? We already truck out our garbage for someone else to deal with. Do we hear their complaints? So let's enjoy our pavement as long as someone else lives with the dirty end of our asphalt.

Anonymous said...

Perry Yates started back-pedaling in the county commissioner's meeting after the BOA ruling came out and stated that he had voted against having this BOA committee installed to decide on matters so important to our county. The BOA panel is appointed, not elected and Perry stated he felt that set dangerous precedent for the county. We heard you Perry and you made sense during that statement.

The county's attorney, Mr. Pokela put together a solid case and emphatically proved that the Hampton's and Maymead have no vested interest in an asphalt plant at this location on our scenic byway and that the revocation of Hampton's HILU permit should stand after years of inactivity on Hampton's part.

Unfortunately, the BOA members completely disregarded Mr. Pokela's evidence and the contradictions between the Hamptons' and Maymead's (Wiley Roark) sworn testimonies and the written evidence. The BOA members deliberated in just 15 minutes after the longest local BOA hearing in the state of N.C. The legal matters were very complex and deserved much more consideration and deliberation than they offered this matter. They also did not have the legal background to give this proper consideration.

The commissioners were advised by Mr. Pokela that the county's case would hold up in a court of law. An environmental law firm in Asheville also reviewed the evidence and testimonies and concurred that the Hampton's and Maymead have no legal standing to put an asphalt plant at this location. All of this was ignored by the BOA and also three of the county commissioners.

Back to Perry Yates. One would logically conclude that if he thought the BOA was the improper forum for deciding legal matters such as this, he would vote to push the county's appeal to the Superior Court where it could be heard in an impartial court of law for a final decision by a legal expert. Keep in mind the BOA members do not have any legal background and were also having dinners with Maymead and the Hamptons during these hearings. There are also questions of conflict of interest with these BOA members that Mr. Eggers turned a blind eye too as the county's attorney. The BOA hearings were a farce and well scripted theater.

In the end, Perry Yates inexplicably voted NOT to appeal the case on the county's behalf. Before this came to a vote, several of his constituents asked to meet with him to discuss the case and Perry's response was that it would be improper to meet with these citizens to discuss the case. Despite this claim, he and the other commissioners did meet with Wiley Roark, president of Maymead and the rest is history. What was said, what was offered? What was threatened? We do not know.

Anonymous said...

Perry Yates, David Blust and Johnny Hodges chose to disregard the 4,000+ petition signatures, hundreds of citizens who spoke at the public hearings against this dubious asphalt plant. Instead, these three commissioners voted in favor of one family (Hamptons) and an out of state polluting industry despite being supplied with two different and expert legal opinions that the petitioner's claims to have an asphalt plant in this location had no legal standing. Only three people spoke in favor of the asphalt plant during the hearings. All three of those had financial gain involved. Who are Yates, Blust and Hodges representing?

People are not stupid and see there is corruption at work in this decision. The logic of their vote is inexplicable. It is a rigged local government where money or contracts are possibly passing hands. There is also an adjacent 80 acres owned by a shell LLC called the Gateway Crew, registered in S.C. and no one knows who the principals are. This tract is listed in Maymead's lease with Johnny Hampton for first right of refusal and is probably the second stage of this horrible plan for our scenic byway. Now imagine a 104 acre industrial complex on the scenic byway. Next step will be to just remove the scenic byway designation (enter the BOA again). Why have it when our commissioners and county planning board did not bother to protect it? No one in their right minds can argue that it makes any sense for a high impact and toxic industry like asphalt production to be constructed on the Doc and Merle Watson Scenic By-way. Only very cynical and profit-minded people would advocate for this.

The Hamptons are claiming they have been vilified and called liars during this whole process. No one spoke unkindly to them or called them liars during the hearings. Their own sworn testimony contradicted the written and documented evidence Mr. Pokela presented. Their own actions and obvious financial gain speaks for itself. Mr. Hampton was given this permit in 2011 without a public hearing or public notice. To add insult to injury to the county, he has been allowed to cynically waive it around to the highest bidder for four years. The county's leaders have left us all very exposed. Mr. Hampton's actions are very cynical in regard to his neighbors and the health and wellbeing of the county and its citizens and tourism industry. His actions speak more loudly than his "aw-shucks, I'm just one of you" routine. The Hamptons are making millions in this deal. They are not victims.

So, this summer and in November, all that needs to be stated is that Perry Yates, David Blust and Johnny Hodges voted in favor of putting an asphalt plant on our Doc and Merle Scenic By-way. They voted in favor of this despite the expert legal advise they were given. They voted against the county, it's natural beauty and its citizens' well-being. They did this in favor of one family's and an out of state company's financial gain.

Please vote in November and remember their actions. Their actions speak louder than their "aw-shucks" words. The citizens of Watauga county have every right to question these three commissioners integrity. They do not care about or represent the county's interest and its citizens. Perry Yates in particular chooses to talk out of both sides of his mouth in the most disingenuous way.

Please vote Yates and Blust out of office in November for the sake of this county.

Anonymous said...

To Chris Jordan,

It is imperative - when dealing with HIGH IMPACT LAND USE FACILITIES - to consider location. The idea that they should be plopped anywhere is damaging. This is the third Maymead facility within a 30 mile stretch - they have facilities in Boone and Jefferson. We do not need a massive asphalt plant so near homes, schools, the New River, etc. and so on in order to have paved roads.

Anonymous said...

Individual property rights are often not popular, particularly among those who have no financial stake in the property. But the protection of private property rights is an essential principle of democratic capitalism, which is the American system of government and economics. Those who invest in private property must have assurance that their economic rights will be protected, even when a majority wants to diminish those rights.

Anonymous said...

To anonymous at 6:40pm.

It is egregious that the only property rights Blust, Yates and Hodges cared about was their friend's property rights. Johnny Hampton is not the only property owner involved here. There are hundreds of homes whose values will plummet thanks to proximity to an asphalt plant established through a permit transfer of dubious legality.

No one is saying property owners have no rights to sell their land. The placement of toxic polluting industries comes with significant costs - particularly to the nearby homeowners - who are, after all, property owners. That is the role of government, to protect the assets of the county. Blust, Hodges & Yates are not doing that. Vote out Blust and Yates in November.

Anonymous said...

No ones rights are being diminished in this case. The permit had expired and Maymead and the Hamptons were unable to prove they had "vested rights" to that permit which was rightly revoked by the county. There are plenty of other options available to the Hamptons in the use of their land. Maymead does not own the land, they lease it. It is not "an essential principal of democratic capitalism" to adversely affect the property values and quality of life to your neighbors. That's absolute nonsense. The county has done a horrible job of protecting the Doc and Merle Scenic Byway in this case. That permit should never have been issued in the first place.

Anonymous said...

You assume that property values and the neighbors' quality of life will be adversely effected. That's an option, not a legal finding. The state Division of Air Quality has the legal authority to determine if this operation will create hazardous conditions that endanger the public health. If they decide to grant the permit, those who disagree can challenge it in court.

Anonymous said...

Meant to type "opinion," not option.

Anonymous said...

To anonymous at 11:33 a.m.

The adverse effects could be just 'opinion' but those opinions of home buyers about asphalt plants have an adverse effect on home sales near plants. It's just dishonest to claim there are no adverse effects to living near a plant! Proximity to an asphalt plant adversely effects home values - particularly when the homes are built prior to the plant. The people who live in that area never planned to see an asphalt plant on the Doc and Merle Watson Scenic Byway. Why would anyone think the county would allow the industrialization of a scenic byway? It makes no sense - except in Watauga.

Neighborhoods near asphalt plants see an increase in asthma, bronchial issues, headaches. We'll see that in the children at Parkway and Two Rivers schools. Maymead will say that's just not the fault of the tons of emissions their plant tosses into the environment. Kind of like cigarette companies back in the day...

The water shed can be polluted by the chemicals used in asphalt production - this in an area where some of the neighbors - Jimmy Hodges' Ridgeview on the Parkway in particular - are already dealing with water issues. Also - some of the homes in Jimmy's Ridgeview subdivision will now have a prime view of an asphalt plant. That's not really an easy sell. Ask the people who live near Radford's quarry on Bamboo how that location helps the maintain their home values. Not very nice of Jimmy to do this to his neighbors.

DAQ will issue a permit - this is a local land use issue - the local Republican commissioners screwed over the county big time, industrializing the scenic gateway to Boone. Who wins? Johnny Hampton and Maymead. That's about it. Very sad all around.

Anonymous said...

David Blust, Perry Yates and Johnny Hodges have voted to allow an asphalt plant on the Doc and Merle Watson Scenic Byway, next to the Parkway and Twin Rivers Schools, next to hundreds of residential homes, within two miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway and less than 1/2 a mile from the New River.

The county has a strong legal case that should be heard in a court of law and these three county commissioners are stopping it from being heard in an expert and impartial court of law so their friends Johnny Hampton and Wiley Roark (Maymead) can make millions at the expense of the county.

Vote DAVID BLUST and PERRY YATES OUT OF PUBLIC OFFICE in November for the sake of the county and its residents.

Anonymous said...

It would be a lot more honest if people who drove around on asphalt roads and complained about potholes just said "I love asphalt. Just don't put it near me."

Instead, everyone suddenly becomes very really worried that tourists will decide that they are going to stop driving cars to Boone because they have to drive by an asphalt plant. It is NIMBY, in its most transparent form. Everyone suddenly becomes a fog expert, or a legal expert. Suddenly, instead of an asphalt plant, there is a rumor of an industrial wasteland. There is absolute assurance that someone was bought off. I would think that, before you make such claims, you check and see if they are true. Otherwise, it is just dishonest.

Not one person on this thread suggests where, exactly, a plant should go in Watauga County. If not on 421, what about on old 421? It is complete bunk to suggest that there is some danger from finding yourself within two miles, or six miles, of a plant. There are people who work at these plants throughout the country. If they were dying from pollution, don't you think someone could have presented one instance? Just one?

But to listen to the irrational hair pulling on here, one would think they would have all dropped dead by now. There are two massive STUDENT apartment complex sites within two miles of the plant on 105. There are "hundreds of homes" within the same distance as 105 plant. Are those parents who place their kids there all just morons, and the kids on the verge of death?

It is just as likely that there is a weariness with this fearmongering, that such irrationality hurt your arguments, and that, regardless of what square patch of earth an asphalt plant might land on, the same arguments would be made about sure death and scurrying tourists.

Anonymous said...

To Anon at 10:38 a.m

It is absurd for the county to define certain industries as "high impact" but provide no protections for homeowners. Asphalt is toxic - that's why it is high impact.

The argument that an asphalt plant should be in ANYONE's backyard is ridiculous. It should not be in anyone's backyard. What is irrational is the insistence that asphalt has no harm, no impact to property values, to health. Cigarette manufacturers for many years said cigarettes were safe.

Maymead came in claiming they would make a "common law vested rights case." They proved that JW Hampton invested in its own business - and that the HILU permit was never transferred to Maymead. To use such weak arguments to industrialize the gateway to the High Country is very damaging to the county. But I've realized that for some people - like Blust, Hodges and Yates - the county is only land to be industrialized. Tourism, children, homes - none are issues to consider. Very poor leadership on the part of the Republican commissioners. They have zoned the county for high impact. That's terrible.

Anonymous said...

My point is proven. Many have said with a straight face that they aren't opposed to all asphalt plants----just that one right there. When pressed, such as above, they then would simply would ban them--- Everywhere. That is unrealistic. It is even more unrealistic to assume that such a strategy works where Republicans are in charge.

NOw might be a good time to please stop with the constant re-hashing of what was proved and wasn't proved, and why the Commission should have listened to WATCH's lawyers. . Unless you are a lawyer and plan to appeal, it is pointless. To whom are you making these "legal" arguments? ARe you imagining that repeating the same arguments somehow helping?

It just looks like poor impulse control. Do you not think that the Commissioners realize that the same handful of people are repeating the same talking points over and over again?

Is accusing the Commisioners of being bought supposed to make them now decide to change their minds?

So, in the absence of the brand new ordinance, where in Watauga county should heavy industry be located? And what would happen If someone tried to place one in that very spot? Unless you can answer that question, the strategy of shrieking seems a loser. We all know the commission has been trying to answer that question. Yet, in all of the " hey, let's send another nasty email" sessions, no one seems to have acknowledged that, maybe, half of the world out there views businesses as positive--heck, the county has been trying to make spots for new businesses.

It doesn't matter what the ordinance or DENR or the EPA, or anyone else says, there are those who would stand up and argue that a plant four miles away from anything is an imminent threat. That we are all in danger. Ultimately, that is a losing strategy. Even if you believe it, it is absurd to act like you can just make a board composed of republican business owners agree with you by insulting them.

I don't buy for a minute that the same dozen people who have screamed the loudest give a rat's ass about the "gateway." I don't think they care about tourism, and certainly not about legal theories. The live within a few miles of the site. They don't want the plant there. I get it.

BUt, forPete's sake, the Watch website and social media are full off sophomoric legal theories and, worse, just outright accusations of someone being bought. Or evil. And Mr. HAmpton was called a disgrace, to his face. The commissioners have been called worse. IT is common knowledge that Anne Ward ran up to the Commissioners and heaped more abuse. It is also common knowledge that she had already antagonized commissioners, and she wonders why they stopped listening. It is disheartening. Noone bothered to acknowledge that these commissioners just might not respond to bullying.

No one seemed to imagine that the Commissioners might read social media. They might even read this. DO you imagine that, before they voted not to appeal, they might have read that they were corrupt, had no integrity? I am embarrassed by what has appeared on social media.

Does it occur to anyone that these commissioners might be around for a few years, and that you might need to approach them again? Do you think they won't remember what has been said?

Eventually, I think, the Commissioners got tired of the constant barrage of outright nonsense. They got tired of being called corrupt after they effectively banned future heavy industry, in entire county, for the first time ever.

ANd, eventually the bad behavior backfired.

Anonymous said...

In the numerous public hearings over the last year about this plant, hundreds of Watauga County residents asked the commissioners to consider the issues surrounding the permit and the problems that come with locating the plant at that site. One hearing was so crowded, it had to be moved to the courthouse.

If the Republican commissioners want to view that as a "barrage of nonsense," that's a terrible way for politicians to view their constituents.

Where to put an asphalt plant that's servicing an Ashe County project? Republican commissioners obviously think that letting an out-of-state company industrialize the 421 Scenic Byway in Watauga County is the way to go. What's also amazing - the lengths they'll go to vilify the Watauga County residents who oppose this. Pretty sad.

Who do Republican commissioners represent? Maymead. The fact is - Yates and Blust voted against Watauga County and voted to put a Maymead asphalt plant on the 421 Scenic Byway. Please vote out Yates and Blust in November.

Unknown said...

I will Vote against Both those "Super Predators" for sure.