Waynesville leaders caught between salt factory and irked neighbors

Giles Chemical pledged last week to do what it could to appease neighbors fed up with intrusive truck traffic on their town streets, but residents maintain the small industry has outgrown its location.

Throughout the day, trucks traveling to and from Giles Chemical to pick up or drop off loads have caused headaches for neighbors. Some truck drivers routinely park their trucks in the road in front of Giles’ Smather Street warehouse, blocking traffic and causing potential safety hazards.

However, all parties involved — including the Waynesville town board — hope “No Parking” signs will help remedy residents’ concerns about tractor trailers, which also end up with their wheels in people’s yards and driveways.

“Keep your fanny off my property,” joked Mayor Gavin Brown as the board discussed posting the new signage.

Town leaders agreed to put up no parking signs along the nearly 1.5-mile stretch of Smathers Street between Plott Creek Road and Commerce Street. That in turn will allow police to ticket any vehicles stopped or idled on the road.

“Cops can make some money off these guys,” said Earl Bradley, owner of Earl’s Automotive on Smathers Street.

It will take the town about a month to post the signs.

In the meantime, Giles Chemical has posted its own signs attempting to corral truck traffic and prevent jams. The company agreed to post such signs last spring.

Signs now direct all tractor trailers to a staging area and instructs truckers to call for questions or further directions.

The hope is that truck drivers will idle in the off-street staging area until the warehouse’s load dock is clear. Giles will then inform the driver when he or she access the dock unimpeded.

The process aims to keep traffic flowing on Smathers Street and prevent tractor-trailers from blocking the road.

“I think that’s a good idea,” said Paul Benson, Waynesville’s town planner. “That’s going to be a hard problem to solve. Honestly, it will continue to be a problem.”

The no parking sign proposal resurfaced as Giles Chemical seeks zoning approval from the town. Giles current zoning classification prevents it from expanding at its current site.

It was rezoned when the town revamped its land-use standards and now wants to be rezoned as commercial-industrial, which would allow for future expansion.

The rezoning was an “unintended oversight,” said Patrick Bradshaw, who sat on the land-use plan review committee.

Heavy industrial technically isn’t allowed in the downtown central business district. Giles’ operations were grandfathered in but can’t expand beyond their current footprint without town approval.

“We simply need our permitted use to be reinstated,” said Matt Haynes, director of manufacturing.


The rezoning conundrum

Giles Chemical will have to wait another couple of weeks to hear whether Waynesville’s Board of Aldermen will approve or deny their request for rezoning, however.

During the meeting, Haynes reminded attendees and the aldermen that Giles, the leading producer of Epsom salt in the U.S., contributes to the local economy.

“Giles has been an honorable and valuable member of this community for a long time,” he said.

About seven Waynesville residents attended the board meeting last week and spoke out against Giles’ rezoning request.

“They have outgrown,” said Mark Yops, a resident of Love Lane, adding that he is “constantly having to wait for the semi-trucks.”

The rezoning would be “more disruptive,” he said.

Earl Bradley, owner of Earl’s Automotive on Smathers Street, said that he must already deal with truckers blocking the road and using his property to back into Giles’ docking area.

“I don’t see it being any different if they get to build more,” he said.

Bradley showed pictures and video of trucks using the street and his parking lot to maneuver into the dock. Bradley said he must often inform truckers that they are not allowed on his property.

“I have to go out there many, many times a day when I should be attending to the business,” he said. “Who is going to control that?”

Part of the problems is that there’s only a small space in front of Giles’ warehouse to make a three-point turn, one that even the most adept truck drivers have difficulty nailing consistently.

“They are trying to put that truck into a match box,” said Peggy Roberts, a Mill Street resident.

The warehouse was built about a year ago, and Giles is still tweaking its procedures, Haynes countered.

“As with any new facility, there are issues,” he said. “It is not the easiest maneuver in the world; it is doable.”

Haynes added that as time passes, more truckers are turning into the loading dock without trouble and without blocking the street.

A couple of the residents said they were glad Giles was prospering but that the rezoning and a possible expansion of the Smathers Street location would only add to already existing problems.

“I would love to see Giles Chemical expand and thrive for another 50 years,” Roberts said. But, “things have gotten greatly out of hand.”

The noise generated by Giles’ operations prevents her from using the front rooms in her house as well as her porch, Roberts said, admitting that the company has made efforts to tone it down.

“Please do not rezone this,” she said.

Alderman Libba Feichter compared the dilemma to the Judgment of Solomon, saying it is hard to appease both parties. In the story, two women fight over a child, and Solomon says he will compromise with them by cutting the baby in two.

“Short of dividing that baby down the middle, what do you do?” Feichter said. The decision is “very difficult for me.”

Aldermen Wells Greeley agreed, asking whether a compromise could be reached.

“I have got to believe somewhere there is some middle ground here,” Greeley said. “I’ve got too many concerns from these folks and from (Giles), too.”

Town officials discussed approving a conditional use permit as a happy medium, which would favor both sides. For example, under its current zoning, Giles may operate anytime day or night. However, if the town moves forward with a conditional use permit, Waynesville officials could restrict its hours of operation.

Currently, Giles is only open during the day, Haynes said.

In the end, the board decided to table the request until its next meeting.


Speak out

What: Giles Chemical will hold a public meeting where citizens can address their concerns operations at its current facility and discuss the basis of the rezoning request.

When: 4 to 6 p.m., Feb. 8

Where: Waynesville Fire Station 2 on Georgia Avenue

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