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Neighbors organize to oppose asphalt plant

EAST FLAT ROCK —Neighbors have organized to block a proposed asphalt plant on Spartaburg Highway at the U.S. 25 connector, saying that the manufacturing use could release harmful toxins into the air, depreciate surrounding property values and endanger the health of residents.


Neighboring property owners met on Tuesday night, organized the and urged opponents to submit questions to the Henderson County Planning board by the deadline, 11:45 p.m. Sunday. Michelle Tennant Nicholson, a beekeeper and chicken farmer living across the street from the proposed site says she was not notified by Henderson County about the neighborhood compatibility meeting taking place Monday, June 8, 2020, at 1:00 pm via zoom even though she can see the property from her driveway. For links, go to or call Michelle at 828.817.4034 who is organizing neighbors to have input.


A paving company is seeking to rezone a 12-acre tract of land on Spartaburg Highway at the U.S. 25 connector for an asphalt plant, according to plans submitted to the Henderson County Planning Department.

Southeastern Asphalt owner Jeffrey B.Shipman proposes an asphalt drum plant on 6.5 acres of the site, which would include a 350-square foot steel control building, raw materials storage area heavy duty asphalt pad and driveway, loading zone, three parking spaces for employees, two acres of paved surfaces or roof, or 17 of the total tract and 1.8 acres of impervious surfaces on project parcel (28 percent). The vacant commercial-zoned land is valued at $171,800, according to property tax records.

According to the National Asphalt Paving Association, in a drum plant the mix is made continuously. Asphalt and stone are mixed in a drum after the aggregate has been dried and heated. After the asphalt and aggregate are mixed, they are moved to a stoage silo where the mix is loaded into trucks, the trade association website says.

On its new website, the Friends of East Flat Rock says the process of making as much as 600-800 tons per hour can release pollution.

"Asphalt fumes are known toxins," the group said. "Asphalt processing facilities are major sources of hazardous air pollutants such as formaldehyde, hexane, phenol, polycyclic organic matter, and toluene. Exposure to these air toxics may cause cancer, central nervous system problems, liver damage, respiratory problems, and skin irritation."

The asphalt maker has asked for a rezoning to conditional district, from the current community commercial designation. A conditional zoning allows the Board of Commissioners to place conditions on the land to address community concerns and make the development more compatible with adjacent uses. Examples that neighbors often seek are limits on noise, light, hours of operation, traffic, dust, water runoff and noxious odors.

A neighborhood compatibility meeting has been scheduled for 1 p.m. Monday, June 8, during which applicant and engineers will present an overview of the proposed project and answer questions from neighboring property owners. Because of social distancing requirements, the meeting will be held remotely.  People interested in commenting can access the site here and find the staff report here.

A homeowner and organizer of the opposition, Michelle Tennant Nicholson, said she was blindsided by the rezoning request.

"I didn’t know about this," said Nicholson, a beekeeper and chicken farmer who lives across the road from the site. "I have repeatedly requested of Henderson County to publicize better their rezoning meetings for public commentary yet, this morning I had to find out about an asphalt plant making a request to literally move in across the street from me from a friend."

She said when she called a county planner, she was told, "Legally they’re not bound to alert anyone other than those within 400 feet of the property, which is shocking. Literally I can see the property from my driveway."

"I just want to have a discussion about the pros and cons of this," Tennant said. "This area is a superfund site. The groundwater was contaminated by GE. I own an acre and a half and my concern is on already contaminated toxic land it seems like it doesn’t make sense to put a very toxic use right across the street. The thing that I object to is not being notified, that I had to find out from a neighbor who heard it from a neighbor and none of us got a formal announcement."

John Mitchell, the county’s director of business and community development, said the county planning department's rezoning process is transparent and designed to maximize the public's opportunity to speak.

“We go through the same process for every applicant,” he said. “Everybody is entitled to the same treatment before the code. We have a process. That process is laid out there. We notify folks within 400 feet. The board has instituted a plan to do community meetings. Everyone’s entitled to make comments. Citizens are finding out about it because the property’s posted and letters have gone out. The system is working the way it should.

“Everything we do in planning and zoning is about people having an equal opportunity before the law. That equal opportunity is laid out in the code," he said. "We can’t do more or less than the code because then we would be treating somebody unfairly. We’re trying to be the referee in this. “

Public hearings before the Planning Board and the Board of Commissioners will both be advertised in the newspaper in advance. Neither the county land-use code nor the state requires neighborhood compatibility meetings to be advertised.

“You start by posting the property and sending the letters,” he said, both of which have happened. “The whole purpose of the community meeting is to ask questions of the applicant and that whole record will then be published and transmitted to the Planning Board before it ever begins a true regulatory process.”

There's one sign that people know about the rezoning request.

“We’re starting to get phone calls,” Mitchell said, “and I expect we’ll get more.”

Residents of Highland Hills, Cinnamon Woods and other neighborhoods are poised to fight the plant, she added.

Surrounding uses to the southwest and northwest are primarily commercial, planners said, including the South Crossing Business Park and an automotive repair business for large commercial vehicles. To the southwest, northeast and east, neighboring land use is primarily residential, containing the Brookside Manufactured Home Park, single-family homes and manufactured homes.

The county's Technical Review Committee will discuss the application on Tuesday, June 16. The Planning Board is scheduled to take it up at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, June 18.