RALEIGH — The Supreme Court of North Carolina has declined to hear an appeal in the Rainbow Trail asphalt plant case, meaning Appalachian Materials could potentially proceed with construction.

“Appalachian Materials is very pleased that the appellate court’s ruling has been upheld,” said D.J. Cecile, manager of Appalachian Materials. “At this time, Appalachian Materials intends to proceed with situating an asphalt plant at the Rainbow Trail site.”

“If the (N.C.) Supreme Court won’t hear it, that means the (N.C.) Court of Appeals’ judgment stands (that) dismisses the lower court’s ruling,” said Lou Zeller, executive director of the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, an intervening party in the case. “To the average person, it is unfair for the permit to be allowed.”

The denial decision, made March 27, was released March 29 in Appalachian Materials vs Watauga County. The Supreme Court of N.C. consists of a seven-judge panel, made up of six Democrats and one Republican.

The petition release notes that Justice Mark Davis — a Democrat who made a previous ruling on the case while on the N.C. Court of Appeals — did not participate in the March 27 decision.

“The Supreme Court of North Carolina is the state’s highest court, and there is no further appeal from its decisions on matters of state law,” the court’s website states.

The denial means the November 2018 N.C. Court of Appeals ruling in Appalachian Materials vs Watauga County will stand.

In September 2017, Watauga County Superior Court affirmed a Watauga County Board of Adjustment’s 2015 decision to deny a high impact land use permit to Appalachian Materials for the purposes of building an asphalt plant off Rainbow Trail.

In 2015, the Watauga County high-impact land use ordinance prohibited high-impact facilities within 1,500 feet of an educational facility, which Watauga County Planning and Inspections Director Joe Furman cited in denying Appalachian Materials a HILU permit in July of that year.

The N.C. Court of Appeals’ decision stated that the Margaret E. Gragg Education Center — the Watauga County Schools system central office — did not qualify an as an educational facility, reversing a finding of fact that the Watauga County Superior Court made.

“While we maintain the Margaret Gragg Education Center is an educational facility, we were not party to, and have no further comment on the case at this time,” said Watauga County Schools’ spokesperson Garrett Price.

Messages to Watauga County and the attorneys involved in the case were left on April 2. Messages to the intervening parties Terry Covell, Sharon Covell and High Country WATCH (Wataugans Against Toxins Close to Home) were also left on April 2.

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