Watauga County has determined that Maymead Inc. does not have a vested right to develop a planned asphalt plant on U.S. 421; thus, the moratorium enacted by county commissioners Monday will block that project until the moratorium expires on July 31.
In a letter sent to the Mountain City-based company on Thursday, Watauga County Planning & Inspections Director Joe Furman said the development permit for an asphalt plant issued to the property owners in 2011 has expired due to a lack of progress on the project.
“I am writing to inform you that the permit granted on June 20, 2011, to Mr. Johnny Hampton for an asphalt/cement plant under the Watauga County High Impact Land Use Ordinance is expired and therefore revoked; accordingly, it will not transfer to Maymead Materials Inc.,” Furman said in the letter. “Watauga County maintains that a vested right has not been established for the erection of an asphalt plant.”
Maymead has planned to convert a rock crushing and recycling facility it is leasing at 5251 U.S. 421 South in the Deep Gap area, into a 300,000-ton-per-year asphalt plant to support paving operations for the widening of U.S. 221.
Furman previously said that Hampton’s permit could be transferred to Maymead as long as the asphalt plant site plans did not change. Opponents of the project said they were shocked to learn the 2011 permit could have been approved without public input, and they are now pushing for greater public input measures in the county’s HILU ordinance.
The letter to Maymead gives three reasons for the determination that the company has not established a vested right for the 421 project. First, the project has not yet obtained additional required permits, including a state air quality permit, driveway connection permit, storm water permit, grading permit and building and electrical permits.
Second, “four years have passed since the original permit was issued, and no appreciable progress has been made towards its implementation,” the county’s letter stated. “As a result of this delay in establishing a use under the previously issued permit, it has expired.”
And third, the county determined that the area described in Maymead’s lease agreement does not encompass the area previously described in the 2011 Hampton permit. “Discrepancies between the leased area and the previously permitted (now expired) location make the proposed use not compliant with the ordinance or the now expired permit,” the letter said.
Without a vested right, the Maymead project is not “grandfathered in” and is subject to the county’s current moratorium on all new asphalt plant projects. And because the county has determined the 2011 permit has expired, Maymead would have to re-apply for a development permit under the HILU Ordinance — which could include greater restrictions after the commissioners amend the ordinance and lift the moratorium in the coming weeks.
Among the restrictions being considered is a 1,500-foot buffer from North Carolina-designated scenic byways, which could affect the proposed location of the Maymead plant. The site is located on the Doc and Merle Watson Scenic Highway.
The commissioners will hold another public hearing on proposed revisions to the HILU Ordinance during its regular meeting on July 7.
Reached on Thursday, Maymead President Wiley Roark said he had not yet read the county’s letter and declined to comment until he had done so. Roark said he was unaware of the moratorium enacted on Monday.
If Maymead disagrees with the county’s administrative decision, it can file an appeal within 30 days to the Watauga County Board of Adjustment.
View the county's letter to Maymead below. Tap the Zoom feature to enlarge the document.