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Asphalt plant will stay put

by Alecia Warren
| December 17, 2010 8:00 PM

After lengthy deliberations and with some reservations over the heavy opposition, the Kootenai County commissioners voted 2-1 on Thursday for a Coeur d'Alene asphalt company to continue operating its asphalt batch plant in Rathdrum permanently.

With Commissioner Rick Currie firmly opposing the location of Coeur d'Alene Paving's plant, and Commissioner Rich Piazza firmly in favor, Commissioner Todd Tondee broke the tie with a wavering approval.

"This is an extremely tough decision," Tondee said. "It would be good if that plant wasn't here, but it should be allowed, as well."

Tondee acknowledged the complaints from throngs of neighbors of the plant, who spoke of fumes and endangered property values at a hearing last week. But he agreed with Piazza that the plant was on property zoned mining for 25 years, long before many residents arrived.

The company also has a permit from the Department of Environmental Quality to operate there permanently, Tondee pointed out. And the Environmental Protection Agency has allowed plants like this to be in neighborhood locations elsewhere, he added.

"This boils down to whether this is hazardous to people. We aren't the people to make that decision," Tondee said. "The rules we follow are given to us by federal guidelines and the state."

Piazza said the 100-by-150 foot plant meets all zoning conditions. He said he wasn't impressed by the story of a resident whose real estate agent deducted 10 percent of the home's selling price because of the plant fumes.

"One person's opinion is an opinion. Without any substantiation of documentation, I wouldn't take that into consideration," Piazza said.

Currie, who voted against granting the permanent special notice permit, said he didn't think the plant was compatible with the more than 70 residents within a half mile.

"There was new information (at the hearing), but I did not get enough new information to change my mind," Currie said. "I think it's a bad place for the plant."

Keeping such doubts in mind, Tondee advised that Coeur d'Alene Paving continue looking for a new site.

The commissioners also denied the company's request to extend its hours past the current 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. hours Monday through Friday. The officials cut Saturday hours to 8 a.m. to noon.

The commissioners also refused the company's request to work at night, which makes it eligible for big state jobs.

"I think that's something that will help the move," Tondee said.

Todd Kaufman, co-owner of Coeur d'Alene Paving, said he was pleased with the decision, especially after investing a quarter of a million dollars in bringing the plant site up to code.

"This means after all the money we put in that place we can run it a little while longer, all the while keeping our eye out for another location," Kaufman said.

Craig Cozad, other co-owner of the company, was also pleased.

"Finally, a small business won," Cozad said.

The plant has been operating legally at 2492 W. Highway 53 since May 2009. The commissioners had granted Coeur d'Alene Paving only a one-year permit to operate the plant at its location with the possibility for a one-year extension. That extension would have expired in spring 2011.

Dana Wetzel, Coeur d'Alene attorney representing some of the neighbors in opposition to the plant, was on vacation and could not be reached on Thursday.

Tiny Wilson, who resides near the plant and has submitted many complaints about it to the DEQ, said he wasn't surprised by the commissioners' decision.

"It was a foregone conclusion," he said. "This is a formality they had to go through."

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