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Applicant gets delay of asphalt plant rezoning until August

A rezoning announcement is posted on Spartanburg Highway. At the applicant's request, the Planning Board review has been postponed until Aug. 20.

EAST FLAT ROCK — Facing a broad grassroots campaign against his request, a rezoning applicant seeking permission to build an asphalt plant in East Flat Rock has delayed the request by two months.

Southeastern Asphalt owner Jeff Shipman has applied for a rezoning from community commercial to conditional use to permit the plant, which would operate six days a week and could supply asphalt for the I-26 widening. The plant and associated operations such as loading and raw materials storage would cover 6½ acres of a 12-acre site, the applicants said.
But after opponents fired dozens of questions during a neighborhood compatibility meeting last week— questions they insist remain unanswered — the applicant’s attorney, Brian Gulden, asked the county Planning Board to delay hearing the case until its next meeting. With no meeting scheduled in July, that postpones the Planning Board review until Aug. 20. It’s unclear whether the Planning Board will hold an in-person public hearing then, although that comes a month after the Board of Commissioners plan an in-person public meeting, at West Henderson High School auditorium, to hear another controversial case, for a large housing development at the old Tap Root dairy property.
“We referred to it on our website as ‘to be determined’ but clearly that would be our hope” to hold an in-person meeting, said John Mitchell, the county’s director of business and community development. “You can tell by statements from the governor’s office that no one can tell where we’ll be next month and where we’ll be the month after that.”
The delay in the asphalt plant application comes as the campaign to stop the rezoning is gaining more steam. One of the leaders of the campaign, Michelle Tennant, said during the public meeting via Zoom last week that the electronic means is inadequately serving the elderly, poorer people and Latinos who are less connected.
“It’s not only marginalizing our elderly and people in the mobile homes that maybe don’t have internet access but also those of us that are technically savvy are getting bounce backs” when they send emails, she said in an interview Tuesday. “Clearly the alternative solutions during the pandemic are problematic.”
The newly formed organization opposing the plant, the Friends of East Flat Rock, has attracted 2,694 members and a petition against the plant 5,452 signatures. The organization hired an attorney, John Noor, of Roberts & Stevens in Asheville.

"We had interviewed many lawyers but we chose John he knows a lot about zoning," Tennant said. “We have the Flat Rock Village Council with us. We’ve got public officials coming out saying they side with the neighbors.”

Tennant said she applauds the asphalt company’s decision to delay the case in order to more fully answer questions homeowners have raised.
“The first thing I invited him to do was speak to us, to get him on a Zoom call with the neighbors,” she said. “He’s not taken me up on that. That invitation is always open.” If the delay allows the applicant to “really address the neighbors’ questions, then great, we’re all for that. We don’t want them to only hear us, we want them to truly listen.”