Neighborhood opposes concrete plant
by Anna Oakes
Located at 110 Seven Oaks Road, the plant was grandfathered in as a nonconforming use when the parcel was zoned B3 General Business as part of Boone's ETJ in November 1998. The adjacent Seven Oaks neighborhood was zoned R1 Single-Family Residential.
In 2011, the town received a written complaint from residents of the Seven Oaks residential subdivision adjacent to Boone Ready-Mix, referring to concerns about safety, aesthetics and pollution.
The town and representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources inspected the property in January, and a notice of violations was sent to Delta Holdings March 16.
Attorney Nathan Miller represents Delta Holdings. Miller is also the Republican chairman of the Watauga County Board of Commissioners.
The cited violations of the Boone Unified Development Ordinance included working without proper permits; encroachment of materials on adjacent properties; failure to provide adequate groundcover; insufficient measures to retain sediment onsite; increased impervious area from excessive concrete dumping; and slope exceeding a maximum grade — all of which Miller said his client did not dispute and planned to address.
But Miller said his client would dispute a few other cited violations: continued operation of a non-conforming situation after loss of the grandfathered use, placement of residences without proper permits, carrying on activities not permitted in the R1 zoning district and use of the property for unauthorized and impermissible combination uses.
The town — through its notice of violations and supporting documents — as well as residents of the Seven Oaks neighborhood have said the concrete plant appeared to have ceased operations for some time. If the concrete plant ceased operations for more than 180 days, it would lose its grandfathered status under the town's zoning laws.
A March 27 letter from Miller contested this allegation, stating his client had provided handwritten ledgers, federal tax returns, QuickBooks ledgers and sales tax reporting demonstrating that the land has continued its not (sic) non-conforming use uninterrupted for the last 13 years.
Brian Johnson, an urban design specialist in Boone's Planning & Inspections Department, was called as the town's first witness.
During cross-examination, Miller peppered Johnson with a line of questioning designed to poke holes in the town's claim that the concrete plant had ceased operation for at least six months. He asked Johnson about the duration and frequency of the town's observations of the plant. Johnson said he and two other planning staff members observed the plant "for a roughly six- to eight-month period."
"Were you out there 24 hours a day, seven days a week? Did you ask to look at their books? Did you call Raleigh to see if they were paying their sales tax?" Miller asked.
"No," Johnson replied, stating he personally visited the property at least five times.
"You put that (violation) on there because the neighborhood wanted you to put it on there?" Miller asked.
"No," Johnson said.
Members of the Seven Oaks subdivision recently joined the town of Boone in opposing legislation eliminating the town of Boone's ETJ powers. Senate Bill 949, introduced by Republican state Sen. Dan Soucek of Boone, would have abolished ETJ powers for the town of Boone, but the bill died in committee when the 2012 legislative session ended Tuesday.
The administrative review of Delta Holdings' cited violations was continued from the June Board of Adjustment meeting because of the legislation, which, as originally introduced, would have nullified Boone's authority over the Seven Oaks area.
Three residents of the Seven Oaks neighborhood were granted intervener status in the Board of Adjustment's quasi-judicial administrative review, allowing them to call witnesses and cross-examine witnesses.
The town had called three witnesses when the Board of Adjustment decided to adjourn the meeting, which began at 5:30 p.m., around 11:30 p.m. The case will continue at the Sept. 6 meeting of the Board of Adjustment.
Three other cases scheduled for Thursday's meeting will be heard at a special meeting of the Board of Adjustment on Thursday, July 12, at 5:30 p.m.