Planning board says no to landfarms

By Nicholas Elmes

January 24, 2014

Opponents to the landfarm bioremediation facility proposed near Pilot Mountain won two victories Thursday night in a standing room only meeting in Courtroom A at the Stokes County Government Center.

The Stokes County Planning Board voted to recommend the county board of commissioners reject the application for rezoning that would allow the facility and voted in favor of a request from the Stokes County Board of Commissioners for a text amendment to remove from the county’s zoning ordinances the language that could allow future bioremediation conditional rezoning applications.

The decisions came after confusion over the order of the agenda and lengthy presentations by both the current applicant for the bioremediation facility in western Stokes and numerous opponents to the proposal.

The published agenda for the meeting called for the planning board to first hear the request to remove the language from the zoning ordinance, and then to hear the request for the rezoning of the site for the proposed landfarm. But the meeting was started with the beginning of the presentation by Barry Nelson with Northwest Geoscience, the company hired to consult on the construction of the proposed landfarm.

After speaking for several minutes, and being asked to speak up by people in the packed courthouse, Nelson was interrupted by Stokes County Planning Director David Sudderth and asked to put his presentation on hold while the board considered the text amendment, which they quickly voted in favor of.

Nelson, after receiving assurances that the text amendment vote would not impact the current application for a landfarm, resumed his presentation and spoke for close to an hour on the details of the proposal, describing the way the bioremediation center would work, identifying and responding to concerns from those opposed to it, and arguing why it fit within the guidelines of the county’s exisiting zoning ordinances.

His presentation was followed by questions from the board and the audience, and then more than an hour of public comment where opponents voiced their concerns over the proposal. Their concerns, emotional at times, ranged from worries about land and water pollution to warnings of increased traffic and decreased property values to questions over the financial viability of the operation should something go wrong.

Despite the early confusion and lengthy meeting, both decisions were met with standing ovations from the crowd, but Planning Board Chairman Ted Hairston warned the final decision on both issues rested with the Stokes County Board of Commissioners.

“The planning board does not make decisions, all we do is make recommendations to the commissioners,” he said.

The commissioners will consider both matters in Courtroom A at 7 p.m on Feb. 4.

Nicholas Elmes may be reached at 336-591-8191 or on Twitter @NicholasElmes.