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Proposed recycling clearinghouse raises red flags for neighbors

fr recyclingA commercial recycling sorting plant proposed in Haywood County is being met with skepticism by neighbors, who fear it will create noise, odors and traffic for the Beaverdam community.

“Has the county done the due diligence to know whether this really is a good fit?” asked Lynda Dixon, who lives near the proposed site.

Regional Recycling Solutions has struck a deal with the county to purchase a 55-acre tract in the Beaverdam Industrial Park. The county intends to sell the tract at a discounted price in exchange for the prospect of job creation — a minimum of 30 jobs average $30,000 a year, and potentially 70 jobs if the business does well and expands.

Some residents voiced concerns at a county commissioner meeting last week when the proposal was first announced, asking for more time to examine the pros and cons.

“We don’t know enough about this right now. How many trucks are we looking at? What are they going to be hauling?” Debbie King asked during the public comment period at the commissioner’s meeting.

“We need to understand exactly what it is we are going to have in our community,” agreed Denny King, Debbie’s husband and a past candidate for county commissioner. “Is that a good use of that property?”

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The plan calls for up to three large indoor processing facilities to mine waste streams for recyclable materials, which would then be resold as commodities. Regional Recycling Solutions plans to utilize advanced processing equipment to harvest trash for recyclables.

Denny King questioned whether a garbage sorting line is really the type of economic development the county wants to pursue.

“I believe hauling 600 tons of waste per day into Beaverdam will harm the character and reputation of our community,” Denny said in a follow-up interview, although the exact tonnage that would come to the facility is only speculative.

County commissioners pointed out that the land is within a county-owned industrial park established in the 1990s, and the whole point was to recruit private industry to come there. Three other industries are located there.

“Whether we build there, at some point, someone is going to build on that 55 acres,” said Ken Allison, the owner of Regional Recycling Solutions.

Dixon said she and her husband settled in Beaverdam over a decade ago to be close to their jobs in Asheville yet live a more rural environment.

“That defines many of the ‘newcomers’ out here, as the commissioners refer to us,” Dixon said in a phone interview. 

Dixon said even though the site is within an industrial park, commissioners should consider the type of industry being recruited.

“We thought the county commissioners would take a more measured approach and not have this attitude of ‘Oh it is an industrial park, you should be fine with it,’ implying industrial park means a noisy, dirty, nasty place,” Dixon said.

Allison countered the facility would be a “very good neighbor.” It will be totally enclosed in an indoor warehouse style building to prevent noise and would have filters on the roof to prevent odors. 

“We are very conscious of the neighbors. There is very little noise. Everything is indoors,” Allison said.

The site would also have evergreen screening and nice landscaping, he said.


No zoning, no voice

A few residents followed Allison out of a commissioners’ meeting last week and began querying him in the hallway about specifics of his proposed operation. Allison gave out his business card and said he would be happy to hold a community meeting and talk about the project. However, Allison has yet to give the community a date when he could meet. 

Allison, who’s from Henderson County, is no stranger to the NIMBY mentality — the acronym in land-use circles for “not in my backyard.” He dealt with it in Transylvania County where he proposed a biomass energy plant that would incinerate garbage and wood chips to make electricity, although it never came to fruition.

And he dealt with it in Buncombe County where he first proposed the recycling sorting center earlier this year. There, neighbors organized and successfully shot down Allison’s zoning permit.

With his sights now set on Haywood, Allison is once again facing some of the same concerns. The community has already started a Facebook page “Band Together for Beaverdam” and held a community meeting this week to air and share concerns.

Travis Wesley, a neighbor nearby, told Allison after the commissioners meeting last week that his property values would no doubt decline due to added noise and traffic increase.

“In my opinion, it would have zero impact on the property values,” Allison said.

Given Allison’s past proposal to build a waste-to-energy incinerator in Transylvania County, Debbie King wanted to know if that was in his long-range plan for Haywood. Allison said no.

“We are not an incineration facility. We are not a landfill,” Allison said.

Debbie King also questioned why the county hadn’t notified people who live in the area about the proposed recycling facility. Debbie said she personally knocked on doors in the community neighboring the tract because she thought they should know. But the only reason she knew about it herself was because she follows commissioner meeting agendas and saw it listed as an upcoming topic.

“It’s not because our county government let us know about it,” Debby King said. “People were totally in the dark. No one in Beaverdam knew anything about this.”

It wasn’t announced until now because private businessmen generally don’t talk about their ventures when they are still in the formation stage, replied Mark Clasby, economic development director.

This project was particularly sensitive because economic development incentives were being negotiated, he added.

Denny and Debbie King both said there should be a community meeting and public hearing on the proposed project.

However, Haywood County has no zoning. In the name of private property rights, anyone can build anything, anywhere, regardless of what impact it might have on their neighbors, without public input or county permission.

When Debbie King was asked if she thinks Haywood should adopt zoning to ensure neighbors’ rights are protected, she didn’t answer the question.

Dixon said the lack of zoning is one thing that has her concerned. Because of the industrial park status, deed restrictions prevent it from being retail or commercial, but there’s latitude within the industrial sector.

“Once he has this property, they can do anything they want to,” Dixon said.


Enter state permit

The recycling sorting center would require a state environmental permit since it will be handling garbage.

While Allison’s end goal is to sort recyclables to sell off, there will inevitably be trash mixed up with it, thus triggering state permit requirements for trash facilities.

Allison had a permit in the works earlier this year for the recycling center he wanted to put in Buncombe. It was on hold pending zoning approval.

The permit never underwent a full review since the zoning was denied, according to Allen Gaither, with the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality’s solid waste division for the mountain region.

Allison will now have to reapply for a state permit for his new location in Haywood, but presumably the new application would largely mirror the old one.

“Many of the components would remain the same but the site plan would change,” Gaither predicted.

The permit would impose certain criteria regulating wind-blown debris, varmints and rain leaching through trash and running off-site, but they would be largely non-issues since it’s going to be indoors. One measure of solace is permit criteria preventing nuisance conditions for neighbors — such as odor.

“Certainly any nuisance conditions he would be required to mitigate,” Gaither said. 

Allison said air filtration units would be installed in the roof of the building to cleanse air of odors if necessary.

Allison said stinky household trash isn’t the type of waste he hopes to sort at the facility, however.

“It would be a tiny percentage if any at all,” Allison said.

He plans to go after industrial and commercial trash with cleaner waste than your run-of-the-mill household trash and high percentage of recyclable commodities.

“He is wanting to find a niche,” Gaither said. 

Nonetheless, just a few stowaway pizza slices comingled with truck load of cardboard means the operation technically counts as a “transfer station” when it comes to an environmental permit.

True-to-form transfer stations are essentially way stations for the waste stream — akin to a receiving terminal where trash is compacted, baled and loaded on to trucks bound for a final destination at a landfill somewhere. The permit wouldn’t impose criteria on how much garbage versus recycling he can process.

“If he gets a transfer station permit, by permit he would be able to take nothing but trash if he wanted to,” Gaither said.

Debbie King asked whether the left over garbage from the facility would be put in Haywood County’s landfill and fill it up prematurely.

Haywood County Administrator David Francis says no.

Waste passing through Allison’s facility would qualify as “out-of-county” trash. While the county does sell landfill space to out-of-county trash, the county caps the volume of outside trash, so any volume from Allison would just be part of the overall mix and fall within that same cap, according to Francis. Further, the point-of-origin for outside trash accepted at Haywood’s landfill is limited to 18 counties in WNC. Francis said he believes left-over garbage from Allison’s facility will be trucked elsewhere for landfill disposal.

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