The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League and Protect Our Fresh Air recently joined Ashe County’s legal challenge of an asphalt plant permit in Glendale Springs.
On Jan. 2, the citizen groups filed a friend-of-the-court brief, known as an amicus curiae, in the Supreme Court of North Carolina. The organizations’ legal arguments will be considered by the high court alongside the appeal filed by the Ashe County Board of Commissioners, which also calls for denial of the county polluting industries permit.
Commissioners have challenged the decision by the planning board to issue a permit since 2016. Subsequent appeals have now placed the issue before the state’s highest court.
Ashe County Manager Adam Stumb offered a statement about where the county stands in terms of the case.
According to Stumb, both filings by the parties are supportive of the county’s ongoing case at the Supreme Court, which is yet to be scheduled.
”When the cases are heard, the court will be reviewing the record of the previous Superior Court and Court of Appeals cases. Hearing these two additional opinions from the NCACC and BREDL, the court will make a decision as to whether there were any errors in the previous decisions,” Stumb said.
No further updates have been available from the commissioners or the county, officials said, because everything is in the hands of the attorney.
“At this time, I have not had a chance to review the full brief or discuss with the county attorney,” Stumb said. “This is the second of two amicus briefs filed in this Supreme Court case, the first being from the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners, and this from the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League being the second, both of which were filed on Jan. 2. We will await word as to how these two arguments will be heard by the court.”
Under the Ashe County Polluting Industries Development Ordinance, adopted in 1999, the county can protect its residents from industries which “by their very nature produce objectionable levels of noise, odors, vibrations, fumes, light, or smoke.”
Such industries cannot be located “within 1,000 feet, in any direction, of a residential dwelling unit or commercial building.”
Lou Zeller, executive director of BREDL, clarified the organization’s position and was able to describe where they stand at this point in their case.
Zeller shared that they filed their recent brief following proper procedures and expect to hear back from the court at their discretion. He did not provide any further updates at this time aside from the fact that the BREDL has filed its side and is awaiting an update from the court.
“The planning board dropped the ball on the question of what constitutes a commercial building, rejecting recommendations from its own staff.” Zeller said. “The planning board said that a barn cannot be a commercial building because it’s not taxed. This is not true. Barns and their values are listed in Ashe County’s property tax base. A barn lies within the 1,000-foot zone.”
Other issues are placed before the Supreme Court in the Jan. 2 brief, which stated, “Due to the procedural errors and the errors on the face of the record after the planning director made his decision denying the PIDO permit, and the creation by the Court of Appeals thereafter of a new, highly unworkable and unwieldy review and permitting system for local governments, applicants and other interested parties, amicus curiae herein has filed a motion to allow this brief in support of petitioners before this honorable court.”
The organizations asked the Supreme Court to “vacate the Court of Appeals’ Opinion and order the planning board to deny the PIDO permit at issue, or, in the alternative, vacate the planning board decision and re-establish the planning director’s denial of the PIDO Permit.”