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The owner of an asphalt company has refiled a rezoning application to build an asphalt plant in East Flat Rock, a move that is certain to renew a contentious battle between the company and neighboring land owners.


Southeastern Asphalt Co. owner Jeff Shipman withdrew a rezoning application in December after the Henderson County Planning Board voted to recommend that the Board of Commissioners deny the application. Shipman has refiled the application, John Mitchell, the county's director of Business and Community Development, confirmed on Tuesday.

In his letter to County Attorney Russ Burrell and the planning staff, Brian Gulden, the attorney for Southeastern, said that the applicant's case was stymied when the Henderson County commissioners rejected his efforts to have a  toxicologist from out of state testify about the effects the plant's emissions would have. Commissioners first refused to delay a hearing set three days later and refused to allow the toxicologist to testify remotely. As a result, Gulden said, Shipman had no choice but to withdraw the application "at this time."

The proposed plant had set off a broad-based opposition campaign from neighbors, environmental activists, summer camp owners and others, saying that the plant would cause air pollution and water pollution, hurt property values and undercut the area's appeal to new residents and tourists. Shipman had argued that the plant would meet all environmental regulations, would be hidden from view by a tree buffer and would provide good-paying jobs.

The county has set a Neighborhood Compatibility Meeting for 4 p.m. Tuesday, March 30, at East Henderson High School Auditorium. The meeting is not a public hearing or open public comment meeting. The purpose of the neighborhood compatibility meeting is to allow the public to meet with the applicant and to directly ask questions about the rezoning request and site plan, the county said on its website. 'It's the largest facility in the county we could find to hold it," Mitchell said, adding that the meeting would be in person and in compliance with applicable executive orders on gatherings.

Michelle Tennant, the primary organizer of the opposition to Shipman's earlier request starting last June, said property owners are already bracing for battle again.

"It's all about, ' Hey, we moved here with a particular zoning in place and it'll always be about the zoning," she said. "If we don't have zoning in place (to prevent undesirable land use), what else is it for, for matters like this. Our plan is the same, to make sure we communicate our feelings about our property. People can go to We'll start raising money for our attorneys. I'm having some neighbors coming over to talk to WLOS."

She said she heard about the new request Tuesday mornnig when a neighbor called to let her know that county planners had posted signs on the property announcing the pending application. 

"I just don't understand it," she said of the company's request to seek permission for a plant on that site. "Just go buy industrial zoning property and get your asphalt plant done, that's all we're asking. This is not consistent with the plans (county commissioners) have done with the cititizens for the past two decades. This asphalt is not in line with the planning that has already been planned for, for the area."

A Technical Review Committee meeting in which county engineers, zoning enforcement officials, water quality, NCDOT officials and others review zoning applications is scheduled for 2 p.m. April 6.

"The TRC will not approve the site plan or make a recommendation on the application," the county website said. "The TRC does not have authority of technical requirements under the State or EPA and will not discuss those standards. Any required permits from the EPA, State, Federal, Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) (including related Water or Air Quality restrictions) will be required as conditions of approval if the BOC approves the application."

A Planning Board Meeting on the request is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. April 15, also at East Henderson High School Auditorium. The Planning Board meetings are open to the public and at the discretion of the board, public comment may be allowed with a time limitation of 2-3 minutes per speaker or group representative, the county said. The Planning Board does not approve or deny the rezoning application but instead makes a recommendation to the Board of Commissioners, which has the authority to approve or deny rezoning requests. A Board of Commissioners hearing on the request and possible action have not been set.

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Shipman is seeking a rezoning from Community Commercial to a Conditional District the plant on 6.5 acres of a 12-acre site on Spartanburg Hwy at the Exit 7 ramp of the U.S. 25 connector.