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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

Earl Bradley watches from the parking lot of his auto repair shop as a tractor trailer struggles for 15 minutes to align itself with Premier Chemicals’ loading dock across the street in Waynesville.

Bradley has videotaped the trucks for months, with multiple cameras constantly recording the saga playing out on Smathers Street. Despite assertions to the contrary by Premier’s management, Bradley’s videos are evidence of the daily plight faced in the neighborhood.

The delivery trucks park in the middle of the road, block their driveways, tear up their yards, scatter gravel and mud, run over the curbs and generally disturb the neighborhood as they pickup and drop off loads at the warehouse.

“I shouldn’t have to put up with this,” Bradley said. “They’re not a great neighbor.”

Residents and business owners near the small factory have grown so tired of the trucks they have appealed to Waynesville town leaders to crack down on the problem.

Most of the trucks are independent and are not owned by Premier (formerly Giles Chemical), but residents say the company could do more to compel better behavior from the trucks coming and going.

Premier Chemicals employs around 70 people and is the leading producer of Epsom salt in the nation. It has a manufacturing facility in the Frog Level district of downtown Waynesville, as well as a warehouse farther down Smathers Street.

Because Smathers Street is a small, two-lane road, tractor trailers going to and from Premier Chemicals have a difficult time maneuvering. There’s only a small space to make a three-point turn, one that even the most adept truck drivers can’t nail consistently without some luck.

Truck drivers are also forced into Bradley’s private parking lot. The trucks block the flow of traffic and have caused undue wear and tear to his lot, he said.

One day, Bradley went as far as posting a listing of the municipal codes that Premier Chemical was breaking. But, he said they didn’t care.

“They’ve got municipal codes that they break everyday,” Bradley said.

It is not just Bradley who has had problems with trucks on his property.

James Haney, who lives on Smathers Street, said that the trucks have used his driveway to maneuver as well and also ran over his flowers. And, although the company promised that changes to its loading dock would help remedy neighbors’ concerns about truck traffic on Smathers Street, Haney said Premier did not keep its word.

“Everything they said they were going to do, they didn’t do,” Haney said.

Premier Chemical takes in and ships out close to 10 loads each day, according to Matt Haynes, the company’s director of manufacturing.

Bradley said that he did not know off the top of his head how many trucks stopped at Premier each day, but that it is more than 10.

Mayor Gavin Brown said Premier Chemicals is an important industry to the town, providing much needed jobs. Unfortunately, it is not easy for factories and neighborhoods to coexist in close proximity, he said.

“That is a historical problem. We have heavy industrial right against residential, and there is going to be friction. There always is,” he said.

Brown said there are things Premier Chemical could do to be better neighbors, however — mainly telling its truck drivers to alter their habits.

If Premier schedules its trucks better, the traffic would be staggered and wouldn’t have to park in the street, sidewalks and people’s yards, Brown said.

Brown said the town could also help out by passing some specific parking and traffic laws for Smathers Street. After a few weeks of the town’s police officers enforcing the new traffic laws, it should send a message to the truckers and to Premier to figure out a better way.


Sign oversight

Neighbors will ask the town board at its meeting this week to post “no parking” signs on Smathers Street and penalize the company when it breaks municipal codes, such as driving over sidewalks and tearing up neighboring yards.

In fact, residents were promised nearly a year ago that the town would install “no parking” signs, but they have yet to appear.

Waynesville’s planning board voted at a meeting last March meeting to post no parking signs along the street, setting the stage for police officers to ticket offending trucks.

“I think that would take away about half the complaints we get about Giles,” said Town Planner Paul Benson.

However, because of an oversight, the issue did not reach Waynesville’s Board of Aldermen until this month. The planning board had said yes, but the request for the sign was never kicked up the ladder.

“It just got lost,” Brown said.

The no parking sign idea resurfaced as Premier Chemical seeks zoning approval from the town that would allow the company to expand in the future. Heavy industrial technically isn’t allowed in the downtown central business district. Premier’s operations were grandfathered in, but can’t expand beyond their current footprint without town approval.

For now Premier wants to add a 3,000-square-foot storage shed on the backside of its main building. But the zoning change the company is seeking could open the door for additional future expansion as well.

However, residents are concerned that Premier will expand on top of them.

“We need manufacturing. We need the jobs, but we want people to not suffer,” Benson said. “It’s a balancing act.”

The Waynesville Board of Aldermen will have a public hearing on whether to put in the “no parking” signs on Smathers Street and the change in zoning.

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