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Confusion prompts board to table asphalt decision

by Alecia Warren
| June 11, 2010 9:00 PM

There's confusion about the asphalt plant.

After a court-ordered public hearing to review their decision on the controversial batch plant in Rathdrum, the Kootenai County commissioners were dubious Thursday night about how to change the conditions on a temporary permit that had already passed its time limit.

"The reason we're here tonight is because a judge ordered us to be here. I'm really not sure what kind of decision is required of us," said Commissioner Rick Currie at the county Administration Building, before the commissioners voted unanimously to table deliberations until 10 a.m. on June 24.

The three officials had been instructed to hear new testimony so they could reconsider last April's decision granting a one-year permit to Coeur d'Alene Paving to operate an asphalt batch plant on Highway 53, despite protest from nearby residents.

The permit, only temporary so the company could have time to find a new location, had included a possible a one-year extension for the plant.

After local residents appealed, a district judge remanded the decision on the basis that it would be easy for the company to sidestep the time limit and remain on the site permanently.

The commissioners established at the hearing that at this point, the case should be treated as though a decision had not yet been reached on whether to grant a permit for the plant, and testimony should be limited to the facility's time limit.

Questions were raised throughout the evening as to what testimony fell under that umbrella.

Todd Kaufman, co-owner of Coeur d'Alene Paving, said his company has been making an ongoing effort to find a new location for the plant since last April, but obstacles are myriad.

"We can't just shut down and move in one week," Kaufman said.

The company has applied for a portable permit from the Department of Environmental Quality that would allow the plant to relocate, he said, but the permitting process can take several months.

He added that even after contacting several realtors to find a new location, no viable spots have been found.

Of the nearly 800,000 acres in Kootenai County, he said, "only 0.4 percent is zoned mining, which is the only place we can move our plant to."

He added that the company hadn't been sure how to approach the county for the one-year extension.

"We talked to your staff, and they didn't know either. As far as they knew, we only had to write a letter," he said.

Mark Boyle with the DEQ Coeur d'Alene office testified that the company had only had one air quality violation in the past year, which had been quickly addressed.

"They have no pollution violations occurring at this time," Boyle said.

Neighbors of the site weren't so sure.

Several residents complained of smell and noise.

"Air quality has not improved in their timeline. Noise has not improved in their timeline," said local resident Tiny Wilson.

Rathdrum resident Jake Carey said a temporary permit of one week would be more fitting than one year.

"Requirements that should be instated (for the permit) are requirements of my own home - that these gentleman would live in my home and not object to what's happening," Carey said, referring to the owners of Coeur d'Alene Paving. "That they would be willing to live in my shoes at the same proximity to their operation as my residence."

The commissioners said that kind of testimony would be more fitting at a hearing over a one-year extension, if the officials make that a possibility in their deliberations.