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Commissioners Pass Resolution to Obey Law


By Leslee Kulba-The Buncombe County Commissioners passed fluff and buff on a 5-2 vote. Commissioner Ellen Frost proposed a “Resolution Regarding Use of Non-Toxic Cleaners” that was highly-praised by Holly Jones. The objective was to “encourage” the “guiding” of county purchases of cleaning chemicals toward green selections.

David King was the first commissioner not to flock. He said he liked the spirit of the resolution, but he kept returning to thoughts of maintenance men having to use degreaser to clean things like lawnmowers.

Commissioner Mike Fryar was not impressed. Fryar said he was in business. He had had OSHA inspections. He was told he had to wear gloves to touch a chemical with a MSDS declaring it safe for contact with skin. He was sure OSHA’s regulations were strong enough for protecting the health and safety of county personnel.

Fryar said the health department had codes with which it had to comply. In light of recent outbreaks, he asked if his peers wanted medical personnel to “take some water and see if we can kill these germs or take some bleach and make sure we kill them.”

Fryar said he had cancer. He had to undergo treatments which involved exposure to chemicals all on the board would consider hazardous. He has to put solution in his eyes every morning that would be considered poisonous. “I’m a toxic person,” he declared.

Fryar continued, saying his wife had to go back to the hospital after a procedure to test for an infection she contracted while there. “Mission smells like Clorox,” he added. “It takes Clorox to get the green stuff off the side of my house.”

King, Fryar, and Joe Belcher were of the opinion that hazardous solvents were from time to time needed to do a job effectively. They were also under the impression that people would choose the safer of two chemicals, all other factors being equal.

Brownie Newman stressed that nothing in the resolution was binding. It used amorphous, technically noncommittal language such as, “Buncombe County finds . . . benefits of buying green cleaning products,” and, “Buncombe County will incorporate environmental considerations into purchasing decisions using EPA developed five guiding principles [sic.].”

Wanting more than a 4-3 approval of the resolution, Jones asked what kind of friendly resolution could win votes. She appealed to County Attorney Robert Deutsch. Deutsch synthesized the comments he was hearing into language to add at the end of the resolution saying: (1) None of the aforementioned guidelines should be construed to forbid the use of chemicals necessary to effectively complete a task, and (2) The selection of cleaning chemicals must be in compliance with all applicable laws.

Fryar was the only commissioner to state that it was nonsense to pass a resolution saying the commissioners would abide by the law. To him, it was making what he referred to as “all fluff and buff” even fluffier and buffier.

The added language did, however, assuage King’s concerns. Only Belcher and Fryar voted against the fluff and buff.

In Other Matters –

The commissioners unanimously approved two amendments to the county’s Zoning Ordinance. One let up on required lot sizes and setbacks in areas served by public utilities. The other did the same for accessory structures. The logic behind the changes was that the extra space was not needed if septic tanks were not in use. In response to Jones’ inquiry, Zoning Administrator Josh O’Conner said about five people had applied for variances addressed by each amendment, but many, many more who wanted the same had been turned away by the formidableness of the process.

Joe Belcher was the only commissioner to vote in favor of allowing a man to put a mobile home on his property. Whereas members of city council are always advised to ignore applications in question and vote solely on the merits of the requested zoning, the commissioners’ public hearing focused solely on the intended use.

The applicant, Timothy Deweese, was not present, but one of his neighbors came to air some dirty laundry. The property was zoned R-2. It was surrounded almost entirely by other residentially-zoned properties. But over half of one side abutted a quarry zoned EMP. Mobile homes are not permitted on R-1 or R-2 properties. They are allowed on EMP properties, but so are a lot of other things.

Ironically, the commissioners’ decision came right after Chair David Gantt declared, “Everybody on this board wants to do everything we can to help create more affordable housing or workforce housing.” Fryar and King voted against the immediate request of a constituent, indicating they would prefer to rewrite the zoning ordinance at some point in the future, making single mobile homes acceptable uses in residential settings. The zoning ordinance, after all, was written during the housing boom when mobile homes were stigmatized as homes for trailer trash.

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