By Keith Strange firstname.lastname@example.org and Nick Elmes email@example.com
February 7, 2014
County officials say they are pleased that the Stokes County board of commissioners took action that will prevent a planned “landfarm” in the county less than a mile from Pilot Mountain.
A Stokes County courtroom erupted in cheers Tuesday night as the county’s board first voted unanimously to delete language from the county zoning ordinances that would allow bioremediation/landfarm facilities, and then unanimously dismissed a conditional zoning request made to create such a facility near Pilot Mountain. The request had been made by Kent Fulp.
Expecting a large crowd, county officials moved the meeting to the courtroom since the board’s regular meeting room was too small.
Surry County commissioner Paul Johnson, whose district covers Pilot Mountain, had been a vocal opponent of the proposal, saying the plan could have an adverse impact on the town.
After the vote, Johnson said he feels the Stokes board took proper action.
“I feel really good about it,” he said. “I think the Stokes County commissioners did the right thing and the people on the Surry County side of the line as well as the Stokes County side were very happy that not only did they deny the rezoning application, but they also deleted the language from the ordinance.”
Johnson said that since the vote he has heard nothing but positive responses from county residents.
“I’ve received a lot of phone calls since the meeting and people are really happy that the Surry County and Pilot Mountain commissioners joined together and helped them win the battle,” he said. “I think in the future, all the counties in the area need to be considerate of their neighbors and work together to make sure we keep things like this out of the area.”
Earlier this month the county planning board voted 7-1 to recommend removal of the language from the zoning ordinances, and 8-0 to deny the conditional zoning request.
Several opponents to the proposed landfarm, including Johnson, spoke prior to the decisions, thanking the board for their time and asking them to take the advice of the county’s planning board on both issues.
“The Citizens of Stokes and Surry Counties United enthusiastically support both actions by the planning board,” said Tom Costner, a nearby land owner who has been at the forefront of efforts to stop it.
County resident Kim Campbell presented the commissioners with more than 750 letters from county citizens opposed to the proposed landfarm.
“If you do delete the text for landfarms, please know your citizens are behind you,” she said.
Her message was echoed by state State Sen. Shirley Randleman, who spoke to the board for both herself and Rep. Bryan Holloway, who could not make the meeting.
“We are not here to micromanage what local government does,” said Randleman, “but we do ask you to consider and listen to your constituents as we have. We have been contacted by many of the individuals that are here tonight. They are earnest in their pleas. They value their property and property rights and they are appreciative of the opportunity to be heard.”
Following the public comments, Commissioner Leon Inman made the motion to delete the conditional zoning use for dedicated soil treatment facilities/landfarming/bioremediation in subsection 92.2 from the Stokes County zoning ordinance. The motion was seconded by Commissioner Ronda Jones and passed unanimously.
Board Chairman James Booth then asked the county’s attorney, Tyrone Browder, for advice on how to deal with the conditional zoning request.
“Mr. Chairman, you have deleted the section under which Mr. Fulp’s request was filed,” said Browder. “That means his request is no longer permissible under the zoning ordinance. His zoning application is now moot and subject to dismissal by the board.”
Following that advice, Inman moved, with a second by Commissioner Ernest Lankford, to dismiss the application. The motion passed unanimously.
Barry Nelson with Northwest Geoscience, the company hired by Fulp to consult on the construction of the proposed landfarm, immediately stood up seeking clarification.
“Do we clearly understand that Mr. and Mrs. Fulp are not being allowed to complete the rezoning process?” he asked. “Even though at the time that Mr. and Mrs. Fulp filed their application on Dec. 27, 2013, section 92.2 of the Stokes County zoning ordinance that set forth the requirements for a dedicated landfarm for the treatment of petroleum impacted soils was a part of the officially recorded ordinance, and even though they have paid their application fee, have conducted the required informational meeting, have been before the Stokes County Planning and Zoning Board, that their application has been deemed complete by the Stokes County planning director, and that it has been shown that the site meets or exceeds the siting requirements as set forth in the ordinance?
“By your action to prohibit Mr. and Mrs. Fulp from completing the rezoning process you are therefore by your actions here tonight, denying Mr. and Mrs. Fulp their constitutional right to due process under the laws of the state of North Carolina and the United States of America,” added Nelson.
Browder informed the board that Nelson had spoken out of order and that no response from the board was required.
Following the meeting Nelson said he was unsure how the Fulps would proceed.
“There is an appeals process that is open to us,” he said. “The fact that we were denied due process, these facts have been discussed at length with our attorneys, and if Mr. and Mrs. Fulp decided to appeal that will be the number one item the appeal is based on. We have 30 days to make that decision.”
“The ball is now in Mr. Fulp’s court,” said Costner late Tuesday night in an email to opponents of the landfarm. “We don’t know what his actions will be but we should pray for him to make the right decision.”
Keith Strange can be reached at 336-719-1929 or via Twitter at @strangereporter.