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Asphalt plant applicant says facts, not emotions, should decide

Jeff Shipman says if the Henderson County Planning Board judges his zoning application on the facts not emotion he feels good about his chances.


On the emotion side, he faces an overwhelming force of dozens of homeowners who are expected to say during a public hearing that they fear Shipman's asphalt plant, if it is built, will ruin their quality of life, devalue their homes and even endanger their lives.

Shipman says much of their comments are not factual.

"No. 1, this plant is going to be environmentally friendly and safe," he said. "It will not be seen from Highway 25 or the Spartanburg Highway. We’re taking every precaution to make sure that everybody is aware that we're meeting every guideline provided by the state. A big part (of the opposition) is a result of misinformation and people not getting the correct information."

Comments about health hazards caused by pollutants from asphalt plants, he said, have come from the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League "and both of those have been debunked as false."

Shipman and his company, Southeastern Asphalt, his engineers and attorney have been vilified for weeks by homeowners, environmentalists and other activists who have organized opposition to the rezoning request. The Planning Board hears the request tonight, with public hearing starting at 5:30 p.m. at Blue Ridge Community College.

"We want to be a good neighbor," he said. "We want to get along with everybody. We just want to make a living. This is to support the 18 people that we employ now and then create an additional 20 jobs and that’s new jobs."

A Henderson County native who started his company 23 years ago, Shipman said he's spent around $85,000 on the application so far, including attorney fees, the search for a site and an extensive real estate appraisal that he said showed that the plant would not cause homes to depreciate.

"What I hope comes from the meeting is that everything is based off of fact," he said. He vowed that his case would show "that we meet every requirement by the county for this plant to go there, which we do meet." He said he hopes the decision is "not based on emotions."

Henderson County commissioners Bill Lapsley and Daniel Andreotta have each said in recent separate meetings that there could a better location for an asphalt plant. Shipman said that's not true.

"We have looked everywhere," he said. "Our engineer and myself, we have went and drawn a half-mile radius being a half mile from a church, a school, day care facility, doctor's office and at leaat 400 feet from a residence and there isn’t."

He asked the Henderson County Partnership for Economic Development to help find a site. The agency's CEO wrote back saying her team had reviewed numerous sites "and we are coming up dry."

"We’ve exhausted all avenues," he said. "We really have."

Contrary to a point raised by several public commenters, proximity to I-26 has nothing to do with supplying asphalt for the interstate widening project.

"We’re not set up to do that kind of paving nor do I ever care for us to be," he said.

The company does general repaving, often with NCDOT contracts, in Henderson, Polk and Transylvania counties. Being on the U.S. 25 Connector and near I-26 helps to the extent that big trucks can avoid going through Hendersonville. The site is also near the Green River Quarry, a supplier of aggregate.

"And this is the only thing we’re coming up with," he said.