ERWIN — The Unicoi County Commission heard from both sides of a dispute at its regular meeting Monday, but a resolution to the situation may be up to a state agency.
The commissioners first heard from county resident Robert Edwards, who resides on Scioto Road. Edwards said a vehicle recycling business located across from his residence operates until late hours, creating noise as late as 11 p.m. He also voiced concern that rain could carry pollutants from the business into a nearby creek.
Trucks leaving the business also previously left dirt on on the road, Edwards said, which led him to contact the Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department. Edwards said dust from the dirt has blown over onto his property in the past, and the dirt had to be cleaned from the roadway by the county’s highway department and a fire truck.
“Taxpayers are having to pay for their profit,” Edwards said to commissioners.
Edwards said he has been harassed by employees of the business since contacting the UCSD. He said people living in the area have either died as a result of or have been diagnosed with cancer and that he later called the Environmental Protection Agency to request that the agency look into the business.
Edwards also called on the commission to either add stipulations onto business licenses issued within the county or to implement a zoning ordinance.
“Places like that is killing other people’s properties,” Edwards said.
While Commissioner Gene Wilson said he would favor the implementation of a county zoning ordinance, he said such a decision must come from the county’s planning commission. Commissioner Doug Bowman said the planning commission previously addressed the topic, but found there was not sufficient need for a zoning ordinance when looking at the county as a whole.
The commission also heard from Allen Van Fossen, who lives on property contiguous with the business. He said the business property is saturated with waste oil and tires.
“It’s basically a trash yard in a residential neighborhood,” Van Fossen said of the business.
Unicoi County Emergency Management Director Ed Herndon said he recently spoke with officials from the EPA, which has referred the matter to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation for investigation. TDEC is currently looking into the situation, but the results of this investigation may not be shared with the county commission, Herndon said.
Commissioners also heard from Lester Orsburn, who owns the property on which the business sits. He said he has had a logging business and other operations at the location for nearly 30 years and well before Edwards or Van Fossen moved to the area.
“All I want to say is they’re operating properly. The EPA’s checking it out,” Orsburn said. “We were there before either one of these gentlemen were there. They knew what they were getting when they moved there.”
Orsburn also spoke out against the implementation of zoning in the county.
“Part of what I like about Unicoi County is you do with your property what you want,” he said.
Commission Chairwoman Sue Jean Wilson said she would contact the EPA and let Edwards know where the investigation stands and what, if anything, has been found.
In other business, the board:
— Approved the 2009 tax release of the Unicoi County Trustee’s Office.
— Tabled consideration of having speed bumps installed along Zack Whitson Lane. The matter will be addressed by the county’s Roads Committee at a later date.