The permit was approved Tuesday by unanimous vote of the following commissioners: Larry Reynolds, Phillip Bentley, Jason Ward, Marshelle Thaxton and Ricky Clark.
A large crowd of residents, who live near the facility, gathered at Monday night’s work session to voice opposition to the proposed purchase.
Lloyd Culp, managing partner, Culp’s Lake, said the land expansion would harm his fishery, which has been a family business for more than 50 years.
Culp said he has filed a complaint with EPD about storm water runoff, silt and sediment in the lake.
“It is a water quality issue,” he said.
He said that his customers expect a few hours of peace and quiet fishing in a lake free of contaminants.
According to Culp, the lake has become muddy after significant rain and remains that way for days and weeks.
He said this is apparently coming from the stream that runs into the lake at the southwestern corner.
Culp also pointed to low oxygen levels that could kill plant life needed for the fish.
Robert Furr, delegate, said Highland Park is dangerous to citizens who live in the Culp’s Lake Community.
Points emphasized were safety, environment and clientele.
“It is destroying our quality of life and traffic generated is a hazard on the narrow, winding road in the area,” he said. “And, it is not as family friendly as everyone believes.”
Owner Paul Wright responded to the opposing comments.
He said Highland Park has operated as a good steward of the land and has been proactive about a lot of things, including erosion control.
“There has never been a single complaint to the EPD concerning Highland Park until a favorable vote at the September Planning and Zoning meeting,” he said.
Because of Culp’s complaint, Wright said the EPD came out and inspected areas where the creek crosses through Highland Park.
“The entire area, bridges, and the creek were found to be in natural condition with stabilized vegetation, no mud or silt on the rocks in the creek bottom,” he said. “No violations were noted.”
If he acquires the property adjoining Highland Park, Wright said he must go through EPD.
“When I first opened it, I called them and asked what they wanted us to do,” he said. “After we finished, we had a bridge over every creek crossing and no wheel touched a bank of a stream. We will have to go through the same process if we purchase more property. EPD will watchdog us, so why would I do something to create problems?”
Wright also noted that large areas of recent timber cutting operations have occurred in the watershed surrounding Culp’s Lake.
“It is not hard to find erosion issues from timber operations,” he said. “Mud and silt may be entering the lake from this source. Lake water temperature also rises significantly from winter to summer, which is a natural occurrence.”
Wright said he is not required to a have a limited use area or a buffer zone if the land is purchased. However, he said he would do both if he proceeds with plans to expand Highland Park.