JEFFERSON — The company planning to build an asphalt plant in Glendale Springs filed a civil suit against Ashe County in early April.
According to court records, Appalachian Materials LLC filed a “writ of mandamus” motion in Ashe County Superior Court on April 7. It’s a bid to force the county to allow the company to move forward with its controversial plan to build an asphalt plant in the eastern reaches of Ashe.
Ashe County Attorney John Kilby said the “mandamus,” motion is meant to compel a county to perform a certain action which the petitioner believes the county is obligated to do.
“In this case, Appalachian Materials believes the county is obligated to approve a permit the company needs to move forward with its asphalt plant,” Kilby said. “The county disputes that, obviously, and believes that it does not have to do so right now.”
At presstime, the county has yet to file a response to the complaint.
How’d we get here?
Appalachian Materials first began working on its asphalt plant project in mid-2015, and the company’s complaint indicates that it believes the sequence of events concerning the project are important to its case.
In early June, the company filed for both state and local permits it believed it needed to move forward with the operation, including a state air quality permit and a county “polluting industry,” or PID, permit.
The company claims in its complaint that Ashe County Planning Director Adam Stumb notified it on June 15, 2015, that “the PID application met all the requirements of the ordinance and stating that the PID permit was ‘on hold’ until Appalachian received the air quality permit from the (North Carolina Division of Environmental Quality).”
Appalachian further claims that Stumb’s “approval decision” was never appealed and has since become binding.
The company said it moved forward with its application – based on Stumb’s approval decision it claims – and spent substantial resources in the belief it would soon be able to produce asphalt on the site.
But the plan began to draw fire from the public in late summer after it became known that Appalachian Materials planned to build an asphalt plant in Glendale Springs. An environmental advocacy group, Protect our Fresh Air, lobbied the Ashe County Board of Commissioners to oppose the plan.
“On October 19, 2015, almost four months after Appalachian submitted the PID Application and the Approval Decision was issued, the County succumbed to political pressure and adopted a six month moratorium on the issuance of development approvals required under the Ordinance,” according to the complaint.
County commissioners instructed the Ashe County Planning Board to craft a stronger polluting industries ordinance, which ultimately led to Ashe County’s High Impact Land Use Ordinance, which the planning board approved in March. County commissioners, however, have yet to adopt the new ordinance.
County commissioners voted on April 4, to extend the moratorium for another six months and Appalachian Materials filed its suit against the county three days later. The company’s complaint alleges that because its application was filed before the county moved to amend its polluting industries ordinance, state law says the moratorium simply doesn’t apply to Appalachian Material’s proposal.
Kilby said the county does believe the moratorium applies to Appalachian Materials.
The company specified five claims for relief and said it “has suffered and will continue to suffer irreparable harm without the relief requested.”
Ashe County Manager Sam Yearick declined to comment last week on Appalachian Material’s filing but has offered insight on the scenario in previous interviews, saying it’s an “open question,” whether Appalachian Materials would be governed by the moratorium first passed by commissioners last fall.
Kilby said the county would answer Appalachian Materials complaint at some point in the near future, but said the county would likely first ask for an extension of time to allow it to draft a response to the complaint. He said that could happen within a month.
Reach Adam Orr at 336-489-3058 or Twitter.com/AdamROrr.