Plans of Jefferson-based Tri-County Paving Inc. for building an asphalt plant off Old Brickyard Road in North Wilkesboro were put on hold Thursday night by the North Wilkesboro Planning Board.

The board asked the paving company to present an environmental impact study before it makes a recommendation on the company’s request for a rezoning to the North Wilkesboro commissioners, who will ultimately approve or deny the request.

The planning board tabled the discussion until its next meeting, which is at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 13. Meredith Detsch, town planning director, said the meeting will likely again be at the Stone Center off Cherry Street to allow COVID-19-related social distancing.

Tri-County is requesting that 43.09 acres of 60.74-acre parcel 1404817 be rezoned from R20 (rural residential) to GI-CD (general industrial conditional district) so a natural gas–powered plant producing asphalt can be built in the center of the parcel.

Tri-County plans to buy the entire 60.74 acres from Suncrest Associates LLC, with a North Wilkesboro address, and rezone only the 43.09 acres. The property is in North Wilkesboro’s extra-territorial jurisdiction (ETJ), which means it would need to be annexed into town to access town water and sewer lines running along Old Brickyard Road.

North Wilkesboro’s planning and inspection department has recommended the rezoning, stating in a report on the Thursday hearing that the request could be argued as legal spot zoning if the board agrees “it is reasonable in this situation and if zoning is being exercised in the public’s best interest.”

The paving company is proposing that the easternmost 17 acres of the parcel be undeveloped, acting as a “buffer” between the plant and Villages of Wilkes, a retirement community comprised of single-family residences and Wilkes Health & Rehabilitation, a skilled nursing facility. It was previously known as Wilkes Senior Village.

About a dozen residents and staff members of the Villages of Wilkes opposed to the asphalt plant attended the meeting. Among them, Shirley Camenzind, Meredith Shumate, Emma Byrd and Kim Byrd urge the planning board to not recommend the rezoning because of negative impacts on air quality and property values.

Byrd said that while there would be about 17 tacres of buffer between the plant and Villages of Wilkes, there would only be roughly 600 feet between the plant’s planned entrance road and the residential property lines.

Tri-County President Lucian Jordan and Collin Brown, an attorney with the Charlotte-based Alexander Ricks law firm, assured the board that the new plant would have a lower noise and pollution impact than the Twin City Paving Co. asphalt plant, which is directly west of the property under discussion for rezoning.

Nearly contiguous to and northeast of the parcel is Foothills Sanitation and Recycling Inc., off Boone Trail Road. Directly south of the parcel, across Old Brickyard Road, are parcels in Wilkesboro’s ETJ that are zoned for industrial use. Just south of Twin City Paving is B&C Concrete Products Inc. off New Brickyard Road.

Jordan said Thursday that Twin City has been down for repairs since May but is still operational.

He said that he has been looking for a suitable plant location for two years. He indicated that the plant would be built 50 feet above the current roadway and therefore plant emissions would continue to rise instead of drifting west toward the Villages of Wilkes and other residences.

Jordan said the plant would be manufactured by Orlando, Fla.,–based Gencor Industries Inc. and modeled after the Maymead Asphalt Plant off N.C. 105 South in Boone. He said that plant emissions would be strictly monitored and regulated by the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality.

Holly Minton, a member of the planning board, proposed that the rezoning be tabled until Tri-County could present site-specific environmental impact data to the board. Ronald Queen made the motion, seconded by Kenneth L. Turner, to table it. Minton, Amy Cox and board chair Otis Church made the vote unanimous.

Brown said data would be offered on Aug. 13. “It’s not a waste of our time, but if there’s nothing we can do to convince you, you can tell us. We don’t want to waste our money, your time or their time if that’s a fruitless effort.”

Minton assured him that that wasn’t the case.

“I just feel very strongly that these people who live 600 feet away, I want to make sure they’re not going to die five years earlier because they’re breathing in fumes,” Minton said.

Tri-County must also get an air quality permit from the N.C. Division of Air Quality to build and operate the asphalt plant.

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