Restraining order stops work at Spencer site
By Jessie Burchette
Developers of High Rock Raceway along the Yadkin River in Spencer are now under a restraining order to prevent further grading until an erosion control plan is submitted and approved.
Further grading without an approved plan could result in both criminal and civil penalties.
And the developers have pulled pictures from the race track Web site that showed the grading as progress on Turn 2 and the front stretch of the race track.
Superior Court Judge Larry Ford issued the order Tuesday at the request of County Attorney Jay Dees, who also consulted with with state environmental officials.
The order specifies that David L. Risdon, managing partner of High Rock Properties, must cease and desist immediately any land-disturbing activity.
Risdon signed the order, which requires him to submit a comprehensive erosion plan for the entire site or, at a minimum, a plan for all the disturbed area within 30 days.
Dees went to court Tuesday seeking the order after county staff reported that grading was continuing at the site although the county had issued a stop-work order Aug. 27. That order was issued because developers had begun grading but never submitted the required erosion control plan.
Under state law, a plan is required for any commercial development that disturbs an acre or more of land. County officials said Wednesday that between 10 and 15 acres have been graded.
Dees and Lloyd Pace, codes enforcement officer for the county, said the stop-work order was largely ignored and that grading had continued since Aug. 27.
"They never stopped grading," Pace said. He said developers contended that the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources wanted the work done.
Pace said Risdon did submit an erosion control plan for several acres of the area already disturbed, but it was rejected. Pace said the plan didn't cover the entire area that has been disturbed.
The comprehensive plan could cover 75 to 100 acres -- the area to be covered by the two-mile plus road-course track.
Risdon said Wednesday that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources "has put us under tremendous pressure," wanting sludge removed and creek banks restored. Sludge from the former Color-Tex finishing plant wastewater treatment facility spilled into a creek nearly a year ago.
A large area of the proposed race track development includes the remnants of the wastewater processing facilities. When Color-Tex went bankrupt and closed, the facilities were not cleaned out.
Risdon said the grading company made a mistake in taking dirt from a hill to use as fill to gain access to two lagoons or ponds that contain large amounts of sludge.
"The county got upset about the guys taking dirt," Risdon said. He maintained that the state approved and pushed for removal of sludge from the lagoons.
State environmental officials in Mooresville have a different view.
Andrew Pitner, regional supervisor for the aquifer protection section, said Wednesday there have been discussions about removing the sludge from the lagoons, but his agency did not give the go-ahead.
Pitner said his agency wanted a detailed plan on removal and disposal of the sludge, most likely in a landfill.
Pitner said Risdon was under orders to get the sludge out of the stream, but no such order was given to clear the lagoons.
Risdon acknowledged that he received an e-mail Wednesday morning from Pitner and also spoke with him. Risdon said he understands now that developers must submit a plan to the state on lagoon cleanup.
"We have an agreement. We won't do anything until we have a plan," Risdon said.
And Risdon said he hopes to meet with engineers this week to develop the comprehensive erosion control plan for the entire project.
He said he hopes to develop a short-term plan to remove the sludge that will be agreeable to the county and the state.
"We would like to move as quickly as possible to get the sludge out before the rains come," he said.
Risdon is also facing a deadline from another section of the state agency.
Rob Krebbs, also with the Mooresville office, said Risdon must submit a plan for restoring the area affected by removal of the sludge spill, including the wetlands.
Krebbs, regional supervisor of the surface water protection section, said he plans to notify Risdon of the time frame and deadline for submitting a plan within the next few days.
"We did not require removal of the sludge from the two basins, " Krebbs said.
Risdon reiterated that his problems with the county were caused by his efforts to meet the state environmental requirements. Going ahead with grading on the site without an erosion plan hasn't been an attempt to speed up the track or get around the county and state requirements, he said.
As for photos of the grading appearing on the High Rock Raceway Web site and identified as track construction, Risdon said that was a mistake.
"It was a case of over-exuberant marketing," he said, adding that his marketing director, Allen Winnegar, took the photos and put them on the Web site.
Text with the photos included, "More pictures will be posted on a weekly basis. Check back for more updates."
Shortly after the county used the photos as part of its evidence in requesting the restraining order, the photos were removed from the Web site.
The restraining order covers the entire 196-acre tract. High Rock Properties is ordered to cease and desist any and all land-disturbing activity, including grading, clearing, cutting timber or underbrush of any kind, removing soil, relocating soil, and removing or relocating sludge.
The order specifies further violations will be subject to daily fines and a contempt-of-court acton.
Contact Jessie Burchette at 704-797-4254 or firstname.lastname@example.org.