Smyth residents ask court to overturn truck stop permit | Community

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Jasmine Francs | Smyth County News and Messenger

For the second time in just over a month, the Smyth County Circuit Court is being asked to reject a special use permit approved by the County Board of Supervisors.

In late February, a landowner filed a petition asking the court to overturn council’s decision to approve a special use permit for a private airstrip on property adjacent to his own. On April 4, three homeowners who live near land intended to be a truck stop capable of parking 500 rigs filed a motion for declaratory judgment asking the court to overturn the order approving the special use permit of this project.

Kristi Treadway, a plaintiff in the case, said the area was surrounded by beautiful homes and pastures. During a public hearing on February 24, several residents expressed concern about noise, light and air pollution that would impact area residents. Speakers also expressed concern about environmental impacts, noting the presence of a wetland site on the grounds and the nearby Holston River, home to an endangered species.

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“Putting this very large truck stop in this area is a mistake and does not comply with state and county laws,” Treadway said this week.

Following the hearing, the Smyth County Planning Commission recommended that the Board of Supervisors deny the permit. However, citing the potential for economic growth and support from other citizens for the project, supervisors unanimously approved the application in March.

At the public hearing, owner George Palmer and developer Arpit Soni said the project would create jobs, restaurants and other services in the area, as well as about $5.5 million in taxes the first year.

But, Treadway said the council failed to address owners’ concerns before making its decision.

“And so we are left with a truck stop with 500 parking spaces [with] no buffers, no provisions to control light or sound or environmental impact,” she said.

Treadway is also concerned about the outcome if the business does not succeed.

“I worry what would happen with an abandoned car park of this size down the road if it weren’t financially lucrative,” she said.

In the petition, Treadway and fellow plaintiffs James Kayser and June Harris noted a set of standards required by county code for special uses. These standards state that the proposed use must be designed, located and operated to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public; that it would not adversely affect other properties in the area; and that appropriate provisions for the control of confidentiality are provided.

“The Planning Commission has not found that the above minimum standards are met by the proposed roadhouse and has not recommended approval of the Special Use Permit,” the petition states.

In addition to impacting residents’ privacy and the character of the neighborhood, plaintiffs claim the truck stop would also impact surrounding property values, as well as increase erosion and affect the Holston River, wetlands, water sources and other surrounding environments.

The plaintiffs continue to accuse the board of illegal zoning, saying, “The purpose of the Special Use Permit is solely to serve the private interests of George and Nancy Palmer, rather than to further the welfare of Smyth County in part of an overall zoning plan, and therefore the council ordinance constitutes illegal zoning” and “the council ordinance resulted in a use that is not compatible with the surrounding area and is not conforms to the Smyth County Comprehensive Zoning Plan or zoning ordinance and, therefore, constitutes an illegal place to be zoned.”

The plaintiffs ask the court to set aside the order of the board of supervisors approving the special use permit.

County Administrator Shawn Utt said the legal process was in place for anyone who disagreed with the decisions of the Board of Supervisors.

“And, we’ll see how that process unfolds,” he said.

The county has 21 days from the date it received the subpoena to respond to the petition. As of Friday, no response had yet been filed.

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