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'No conspiracy' to help asphalt plant win rezoning permit, commissioner says

East Flat Rock residents on Wednesday implored the Board of Commissioners to reject proposed land-use code text amendments that they said would make it easier for Southeastern Asphalt to build a plant on Spartanburg Highway near their homes.

"Please don't make it easier for an asphalt plant to be built in East Flat Rock," Lois McKinnish said in a letter she wrote to the commissioners. "These appear to privilege only one or two. I request that you deny these for the sake of our people and our land."

Shannon Nicholson also urged the board to oppose three amendments. One would reduce the setback between a plant and nearby homes, another would clarify the definition of a home school and a third would allow an applicant to reapply sooner than one year from the time the county had denied a rezoning request.

Allowing rezoning applications for controversial projects to come back often would "wear out, tire out and deplete the resources of the county and the planning department," Nicholson said.

Terri Reed, whose father Ted built the Highland Hills subdivision, also opposed amendments that East Flat Rock residents believe would grease the wheels for a new asphalt plant applicaiton.

"We strongly oppose an asphalt pant being built on land adjacent to our neighborhood now or in the future," she said.

Although the applicant, Southeastern Asphalt Co. owner Jeff Shipman, withdrew his rezoning request, "there is a good chance he'll reapply because he purchased the land" even without getting the rezoning. A reduced setback requirement would allow the plant to be built closer to incompatible uses like homes, Reed said. "Our property does not end at our front door. Our property includes the entire yard where we live and play. We pay taxes on our entire property, not just our dwelling unit."

She also opposed a text amendment that would no longer consider home schools the same as public schools or private schools for purposes of their proximity to a use like asphalt plants. The county should treat "all recognized home schools as they do  public and private schools," she said.

Commissioners said the proposed text amendments are unrelated to the asphalt plant.

"The land development code review is an annual thing that occurs irrespective of the asphalt plant that we've been dealing with," Chairman Grady Hawkins said.

Rebecca McCall opposed the change in the setback requirement — measuring the buffer from buildings and not property lines — "because other dwellings could be added to the land which would change the setback. It's true — you own your land, you don't just own your dwelling and you pay taxes on your land, not just your dwelling."

Some people "have suggested that there is a conspiracy between the county and the asphalt plant and that is so far from the truth," she said. "That (rezoning request) has been put on hold at the request from the applicant. None of this was brought forward to us today with any indication to give them any advantage. This is just regular routine work that is handled by the Planning Board."