City of Monroe, planning staff opposes asphalt plant
For the last two years, the Boggs Paving plant located off Stafford Street has been in violation of the county’s land use ordinance. No citations were ever issued against the Monroe facility, as the planning staff said they were unaware it was operating, with no complaints ever filed. The issue came to light this year as Boggs filed a request to rezone the area from Agricultural to Light Industrial.
“We’re looking into that,” Planning Director Dick Black said of the violation. “We discovered it when we went to post the property (for the rezoning).”
Instead of issuing a citation, Black said his department will let the rezoning process play out first.
“This is one of the ways to rectify the situation, so let’s let this play out,”
The property is one the company has owned since 1990, a 35 acre parcel off the Stafford Street extension, State Road # 1624. Current plans have the Monroe Bypass being built on the property’s northern border, a project Boggs won the construction bid for. Now officials want to be able to drive trucks from the plant to the project, without entering the highway.
Last month, the rezoning went before the county planning board. In each rezoning, the planning staff goes through a list of criteria, to determine if the project merits approval. There are more than 200 different criteria examined when going through the rezoning process. For the Boggs site, the planning staff found no favorable reasons to approve it and 220 reasons to reject the request. Among those reasons was the fact the property drains into Stewart Creek, which is a main tributary of Lake Twitty, which is the main water supply for the city of Monroe.
Also included in the reasons to reject is the fact Union County’s own land use plan, which was just updated and voted on by commissioners last year, projects the future land use to be low density residential.
“This proposal was not in conformity with the county’s land use plan or Monroe’s projected land use for the area,” Black said.
Interfering with the area’s water source was also a concern for city officials.
“Lake Twitty is the primary drinking water source for the city of Monroe,” Mayor Bobby Kilgore wrote in a letter to the county. “The city is also at the county’s request providing drinking water to county residents during peak periods. We believe this valuable water resource should be protected. We also believe to deviate from this Land Use Plan would be detrimental to the appearance of the Monroe Bypass,” Kilgore wrote.
Allowing light industrial uses in that area could ruin the idea of a scenic drive along the Bypass into Monroe, Kilgore wrote.
After hearing from the city, as well as those in favor, which include officials from nearby Lee Park Baptist Church, the planning board voted unanimously in favor of the project. As part of the agreement when they purchased part of their current property, Lee Park officials agreed not to challenge a rezoning request. At least one member of the planning board had worked on the last version of the land use plan, which called for low density residential in that area. That version passed both the planning board and county commission last year.
A question of economics?
A public hearing on the issue was held Monday, July 11 during the county commission’s meeting. Multiple people signed up to speak, but when their names were called, one by one, they declined to talk. James Allen Lee from the BOVA Corporation, representing Boggs at the hearing, said approving the change was a question of economics and safety.
“We advance public safety by taking trucks off the public highway,” Lee said. “We advance the welfare of our county by increasing the commercial tax base.”
Lee mentioned that 350 to 400 people would be employed at the plant, to work on the Monroe Bypass. As Boggs has already won the contract, those jobs would appear to come regardless if the change is approved, as the facility will be needed to complete work on the Bypass. Less than a year ago, Boggs attempted to get a similar rezoning pushed through in Matthews to build a plant there, but it was rejected by the town council. With the approval of the Bypass contract, the focus turned to Monroe.
“Since they have this job, they feel it would be an ideal location for the plant,” Lee said.
“By being on this property directly adjacent to the Bypass, (my clients) will be able to take their trucks directly from this site onto the right of way and not be driving up and down city roads,” Lee said.
Lee said that Boggs Paving had never had any violations in relation to erosion control and felt there wouldn’t be a problem, working in the Lake Twitty watersheld.
Those residents who spoke agreed with Lee, saying they felt the rezoning would bring more jobs and safer roads.
“I believe it’s gonna create jobs for local residents,” Unionville citizen Thad Pressler said. “I like the idea of local residents being able to fuel the local economy.”
Pressler also said getting trucks off the highway was important, as a husband and father whose wife drives their two kids to school every day.
Shelia Crunkleton, head of the Union County Red Cross chapter, echoed support for more jobs, saying the county needed more of that to balance the burden on residents.
As for the violation of the land use plan, Lee argued the document doesn’t make sense, in light of the bypass coming through.
“You think someone wants to put a neighborhood in?” Lee asked commissioners. “I think the plan should be updated.”
Commissioners will vote on the proposed rezoning in August.