Harnett County residents feel blindsided after plans for asphalt plant move forward near homes.

HARNETT COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) -- Homeowners in Harnett County said they feel blindsided after discovering an asphalt plant is proposed to be built just a mile from their homes.

"We saw the roads being cleared and the land being cleared, and we decided to look up, and that's how we found out," said Harnett County resident Marge Moreton.

They soon found out that the Highland Paving Company plans to construct an asphalt and concrete plant in the Neills Creek Township off of U.S. 401 N., within miles of multiple neighborhoods, including their own.

This news sparked concern. Residents said they are concerned about the health effects on their families and safety issues regarding increased traffic on the road. People also questioned the potential negative effects to the nearby hospital and river.

"It's too close. It's too close to everything," said Karen Putnam, another nearby neighbor.

Earlier this year, Angier officials denied a permit for the same company to build a plant in its town after a large outcry from residents.

Two months later, the Harnett County Development Review Board voted to approve the site plan for the U.S. 401 location.

Residents said they feel like they should have been included in that process.

However, the new site is already zoned for industrial projects, so the county said a public hearing was not required before development. A county spokesperson said the zoning also meant county officials did not need to vote on the project.

"I wish we would have had to say earlier I wish we would have known that earlier. I understand that they may have done everything correctly, but we feel like we probably should have known months ago, rather than just two weeks ago," said Harnett County resident Aric Allen.

In North Carolina, asphalt plants are also required to obtain an air quality permit from the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). Highland Paving received its permit last week. Similarly, a spokesperson for DEQ said a public hearing is not part of the process for a synthetic minor permit. This permit is issued for plans that can emit potential pollutants.

A DEQ spokesperson said part of the permitting process did require Highland Paving to conduct a test for six pollutants. Based on this model, DEQ determined the plant will comply with emission standards.

"The permit requires the facility to install, operate and maintain controls as well as adhere to operating restrictions (tons/hr production rate and annual production)," a DEQ spokesperson said.

But residents are hoping to have the state conduct a public hearing to reconsider the permit.

"I just want everyone to be able to live in a healthy environment and to be able to be in the neighborhood they choose," said Michelle Snyder, another Harnett County resident.

Various homeowners have banded together to create a Facebook page, website and gathering signatures.

"It does feel too late, It feels like they are already too far along in the process. It feels like there is not too much we can do and we almost just have to suffer the effects right now," Allen expressed.

ABC11 sent emails to Highland Paving and did not receive a response. The caller who answered the company's phone told ABC11, "no comment."

In the two weeks since discovering the development, residents said they have not had any luck from local, regional and statewide public officials.

"These are the kind of things that we want to be able to convey to our commissioner and county officials. We haven't been granted that opportunity and that's a shame," Moreton said.

Residents said there is already a concrete company within five miles of their homes that they have coexisted with for years, however, this proposal is different to them.

"For the first one, I didn't have a say," Putman said. She said she also believes that project was approved before all the new residential development in the area.

The group said it submitted its petition on Thursday and is hoping residents still have time to make their voices heard.

"We know we have a big fight coming up, but we are up for it," Moreton said.
Copyright © 2021 WTVD-TV. All Rights Reserved.