Tuesday, 10 November 2020 21:17

Hamlet calls for public input in plant permit; denies rezoning request

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HAMLET — City leaders want the permitting process for a proposed plant to have a more public process.


The Hamlet City Council on Tuesday approved a resolution asking the N.C. Division of Environmental Quality to allow the public to receive information and have their say regarding a minor air quality permit for International Tie Disposal.

The resolution was drafted after City Council members expressed concerns at last month’s meeting.

A spokesperson for the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality Division of Air Quality confirmed in October that the agency “received an application for a synthetic minor air quality permit and is still in the process of evaluating the application. Each permit is evaluated on a case-by-case basis, however, construction or operation cannot occur without first obtaining an air quality permit.”

When asked for more details, the spokesperson referred the RO to an article by another publication.

Records show the application was sent Sept. 15 by Texas-based Trinity Consultants Charlotte Office and received at the DEQ’s Fayetteville office the following day.

According to information from the N.C. Secretary of State’s office, the company is “foreign” and incorporated in Ohio and was created Sept. 30, 2020. Records show it has an office in Weddington, which is Union County.

The address listed on the application is 173 CSX Drive, Hamlet.

The RO obtained a copy of the permit application which states, in part, that International Tie Disposal wants to develop a biochar production site with 426 kilns — an estimated 160 operating daily — to burn untreated lumber and creosote-treated railroad ties.

(See the permit application as an attachment below this story.)

The state of Georgia recently banned the burning of creosote-treated railroad ties used by power plants, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Council members are concerned about the impact the plant will have not only on air quality, but also on the city’s nearby water source, which is within 2,500 feet of where the ties will be stacked, that serves 10,000 residents.

City Manager Matthew Christian said DEQ isn’t required to have to have a public process on the process, but does have discretion.

“I think that it is meaningful for the city council to request this ... because of the impact it will have on our utility, on our extraterritorial jurisdiction and our corporate limits are not that far away,” Christian said. “I think it is reasonable to get meaningful public input before this permit is approved.

Reading the resolution, Mayor Bill Bayless said there are “too many unanswered questions and uncertainty” regarding the pyrolysis process, including how pollutants will be trapped and contained on-site.

The resolution requests that: 

  • public notice be given prior to the approval of the permit
  • the city of Hamlet be added to DEQ’s mailing list for air quality permit notices
  • the record determines a significant public interest does exist and public interest will be served by requiring a public comment period and a public hearing on the permit application.

“Far too many times, rural America has to deal with these things because we are rural and poor,” said Councilman Jesse McQueen. “We don’t need to let the grass grow under our feet on this. We need to put pressure and do all we can, when we can, to make sure this does not happen this close to our water source.”

Bayless also called for more communication between the city and the county.

REZONING DENIED

Jeffrey Graves had wanted to rezone a property in the Pinecroft neighborhood but was denied by the City Council after concerns from his neighbors.

Graves requested that a property he owns at 107 Locust Street be rezoned from Residential 8 to Residential 6 in the hopes of converting the home into a duplex.

During a public hearing, several neighbors spoke out against rezoning, fearing a decline in property values, an increase in crime and the other types of uses R6 allows, including boarding houses, daycare facilities and medical clinics.

Bayless noted that the planning board voted 4-1 to recommend denying the request, saying it would create spot zoning.

The council agreed, voting unanimously to deny the request.

The council also approved proclamations recognizing Veterans Day and National Hospice and Palliative Care Month; a demolition ordinance for a property at 216-218 Spring St.; a change to the planning board’s meeting time; and an ordinance that will allow the city manager and department heads to dispose of city-owned “personal property” below a certain value.

Council members also recognized the passing of Butch Strickland and Mary Jane Ussery, wife of former county commissioner Thad Ussery.