Bean Station will seek referendum to annex Hawkins plant

Jeff Bobo • Aug 28, 2013 at 6:40 PM

ROGERSVILLE — Bean Station Mayor Terry Wolfe said Wednesday he hopes to have a referendum on the May 2014 Hawkins County primary ballot seeking permission to annex a Mooresburg auto recycling plant which might eventually be shut down due to state regulations.

If annexed, the OmniSource Corp plant on Highway 11-W would remain in Hawkins County.

But, by placing the plant within the corporate limits of Bean Station, the state’s scenic highway regulations which prohibit the plant from locating there wouldn’t apply.

In 2012 OmniSource Corp. invested $500,000 to construct a new auto recycling plant in far western Hawkins County in the Mooresburg community

The company already has several facilities in Northeast Tennessee including Johnson City, Mountain City, Elizabethton and on Stone Drive near Allandale.

Company officials thought they’d met all local, state and federal regulations to open a new auto recycling facility in Mooresburg.

Shortly after the facility opened, however, company officials were told by the Tennessee Department of Transportation that for the past 30 years Highway 11-W has been designated a “Scenic Tennessee Highway.”

As such, junkyards are not permitted within 2,000 feet of Highway 11-W in that area.

The Mooresburg plant is currently operating on a temporary state waiver which expires in May of next year.

On Monday, the Hawkins County Commission was presented with a resolution requesting the state to give OmniSource a 600-foot waiver at the location of the plant. The resolution, which was introduced by Commissioner Charlie Freeman, states that Bean Station would like to annex the OmniSource property, but Hawkins County would prefer to keep OmniSource in the unincorporated area of Hawkins County.

A motion to permanently table the resolution was approved 18-3 with Freeman and Commissioners Joe McLain and Stacy Vaughan opposed.

The motion to permanently table the resolution was made by Commissioner Charlie Newton, who in the past has been a staunch advocate against government regulations that hamper business. Most notably, Newton led the opposition against a resolution that gave the county the same power to regulate businesses that cities have.

In this case, however, Newton said he was not prepared to take a stand against government regulations that hamper business.

“OmniSource is country-wide, and they have lawyers upon lawyers,” Newton said. “They should have known what the state law was. I don’t think we should be requesting the state to change the law. 11-W is a federal highway and they have laws to keep such businesses off the highway because of the Beautification Act. They (OmniSource) should have known that.”

Wolfe told the Times-News Wednesday that OmniSource has asked Bean Station to annex the Mooresburg Plant, and his city is pursuing that option.

“It’s a lengthy process, and we’re working with state officials and the Hawkins County Election Office, and we’re looking at all details of what it’s going to take to make this happen,” Wolfe said. “The state has given them a waiver to continue operating until we see what we can do. They’re waiting until the primary election in May to see what we’re going to do, so the state’s letting them operate until we get all our ducks in a row.”

Wolfe added, “That (May referendum) is certainly what we’re hoping for, but it’s very early in the process right now.”

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