Developer fined for violations at troubled track

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Jessie Burchette
Salisbury Post
Dave Risdon, developer of High Rock Raceway, paid the county a $5,000 fine on Thursday for failure to follow an approved clearing and grubbing plan.
Risdon’s company, High Rock Properties LLC, is working to build a 2.15-mile road course on 200-acres along the banks of the Yadkin River, the site of the former N.C. Finishing Co., later Color-Tex.
Although the site is in the town of Spencer, Rowan County enforces state erosion control regulations.
The chief executive officer of High Rock Properties, Risdon agreed to pay the fine to avoid a court action to shut down the project for continually violating agreements related to clearing and sediment control.
Lloyd Pace, code enforcement officer, checks the site and recently found that a contractor had cleared 30 acres without installing the first settlement basin.
Pace said the clearing and grubbing plan called for work to start near a large, existing basin which could catch runoff. Work was to proceed in stages, with more acreage cleared as new settlement basins were installed.
This week, Pace said, the clearing operation started at the far end of the property and no basins were installed. The plan submitted by Risdon and approved by the county calls for a total of 28 settlement basins intended to keep the sediment on the raceway property instead of in the Yadkin River or on neighbors’ property.
Pace also cited stream crossings that had been done without permits from the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Army Corps of Engineers.
“Well … it’s deja vu all over again with the race track,” Pace wrote in an e-mail to County Attorney Jay Dees, referring to the continuing problems.
Pace cited a pre-construction meeting on April 3, in which all the parties were involved and agreed to the plan.
Pace gave High Rock 48 hours to take erosion control measures.
Responding to a public records request, Dees released e-mails Thursday related to the latest episode with the race track.
On May 16, Dees notified Robert McIntosh, attorney for High Rock Raceway, that he planned to go back to Rowan County Superior Court to seek fines and shut down the project.
Last September, the county got a restraining order signed by Resident Superior Court Judge John Holshouser after the company ignored a stop work order issued by the county. The county issued that order after work began to clear the property without a required erosion control plan.
On Oct. 4, 2007, Risdon signed a consent order agreeing to comply with state and county regulations and submit an erosion control plan.
High Rock has received approval for clearing and grubbing but has not yet submitted an erosion control plan.
In a series of e-mails to Dees, Risdon blamed the problems on contractor Doug Thomas with FC Development of Statesville.
“I have to take responsibility for what happens on the site and I apologize for the fact that the plan was not followed. I agree that it is appropriate for High Rock to pay fines for not following the plan,” wrote Risdon.
He said he would pay fines and not do more work “until a new contractor is on site.”
Risdon said he and Rick Combs, president of High Rock Properties, have been busy securing long-term financing for the project.
Risdon said he now has a new contractor on board with a solid reputation, adding, “I promise you that we will only do work on the site that is approved in advance.”
Dees said that under General Statutes, the county could have fined Risdon for a total of 28 days รณ the total time of the violation. He agreed to accept the $5,000 fine. But if the project is not in compliance by Monday, he said, there will be additional fines.
“Gentlemen, I am just at my wits end worrying about this project,” wrote Dees. He cited the substantial costs to the county for “monitoring this project, finding previous violations, seeking the injunction, and now dealing with further violations…”
Pace said Wednesday that contractors are working to seed and straw the entire area that has been disturbed. Under the latest agreement, all of that area has to be grassed and six settlement basins must be installed by Tuesday.
During an inspection of the site, Pace’s county-owned 4-wheel drive Durango got stuck in the mud. A worker used a trackhoe to extract the vehicle, which sustained a broken rear glass.