DOBBINS HEIGHTS — The Dobbins Heights Town Council voted last week to appeal the decision by Superior Court Judge Dawn Layton’s ruling against the town in its complaint challenging the county government’s rezoning of a parcel of land along Marks Creek Church Road to Heavy Industrial last fall.

Layton ruled on June 7 that Dobbins Heights does not have standing in the case, granting the county’s motion to dismiss the town’s role in the lawsuit. Hal Kitchin, a partner with McGuireWoods who is representing the county in the case, argued before Layton earlier this month that Dobbins Heights is too far away from the area rezoned in question, and from the area that the other plaintiffs fear will be affected by International Tie Disposal, which will produce biochar by processing creosote-treated railroad ties through a process called pyrolysis.

At their monthly meeting on Thursday, Mayor Antonio Blue called for a motion on the whether to ask their attorney in the case, T.C. Morphis of the Brough Law Firm, to file an appeal to Layton’s ruling at no cost to the town. Town Council voted unanimously in favor of the motion.

The other aspects of Layton’s ruling have not yet been made public.

In December, Dobbins Heights signed onto a complaint filed jointly by the City of Hamlet, Chad and Lisa Gardner, and Lonnie and Hope Norton — the Gardners’ and Nortons’ properties are adjacent to the rezoned property — which alleged that the county’s rezoning should be null and void based on two points. They charge that the county’s consistency statement adopted in order to make the rezoning official failed to comply with state law because it did not describe how the rezoning was consistent with the county’s land use plan and didn’t explain why the rezoning was reasonable and in the public interest, details which are required by law under N.C. General Statute 153A-341(b).

Additionally, the lawsuit alleges that the Board of Commissioners — who passed the rezoning in a 4-2 vote with then-Commissioner Ben Moss abstaining — only considered International Tie Disposal’s proposed biochar production facility as the future use of the property and thus failed to consider all of the uses allowed under Heavy Industrial, as required by law.

The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Air Quality awarded International Tie Disposal a synthetic minor air quality permit in April, allowing the company to move forward with construction. The company is expected to bring an estimated 55 jobs and $12 million in investment to the county, though nearby residents fought fiercely to keep the company out out of fear that its production process would cause damage to their health and quality of life, and cause a decrease in property values.

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By Peter

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