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Asphalt plant issue heats up

by Alecia Warren
| November 10, 2010 8:00 PM

The Kootenai County commissioners had put the cap at one or two more years, tops.

But a Coeur d'Alene paving company is still applying to keep its asphalt batch plant in Rathdrum for good.

Coeur d'Alene Paving, Inc. has applied for a special notice permit to operate its plant on Highway 53 at that location permanently, in spite of the county's previously set time limit.

"The purpose of this application is to remove any uncertainty as to the future of a local business," reads the company's application narrative. "It is imperative that Coeur d'Alene Paving have the same type of permit - a permit without an expiration date - that its competitors have."

After a court-remanded hearing and several deliberations, the commissioners this July upheld their original decision to limit the plant's operation on 50 acres of mining zone to one year. They also granted a chance for a one-year extension.

Counting time that the plant had already been in operation, the officials determined the company's permit would expire in spring, 2011, if the extension was granted.

In the meantime, Coeur d'Alene Paving was assigned with tracking down a new site, to appease neighboring residents' worries of noise, smell and pollution.

But the plant shouldn't have to move, according to the company's application request.

The current location a half-mile west of Ramsey Road is perfectly suited for the operation, the narrative reads.

"A temporary permit allowed the batch plant a test run, and it has run for over a full year without incident," the document reads. "That first year without incident dispelled the opposition's concerns. There was no overpowering odor, smoke or fumes. There was no excessive noise."

The only other properties in Kootenai County large enough for the plant, the document adds, are near neighborhoods or are zoned agricultural or rural.

The homes closest to the current site are a suitable distance, the narrative states, at 1,000 feet from the mine pit.

"The majority of homes located around this site cannot see this asphalt batch plant from their homes," it reads.

That doesn't comfort some who live in those homes, though.

Tiny Wilson, a neighbor of the plant who has organized protests against it, has his calendar marked with the days that the plant's smell has driven him from his house. He can read off pages of statistics he says support his worries about health problems caused by plant emissions.

"What do we do? Toss a coin? Take a bet on our children's future?" he said.

Neighbors Linda Ciszek and Rayelle Anderson have written to the county complaining about Coeur d'Alene Paving's trucks using private residential roads.

"This is another blatant demonstration Coeur d'Alene Paving will do as they please," Ciszek wrote in an Aug. 6 e-mail.

The owners of Coeur d'Alene Paving were out on a project on Tuesday and could not be reached for comment.

The 150-by-100 foot portable asphalt batch plant has been legally operating at the site since May 1, 2009.

The Idaho Transportation Department stated in a letter to the county that reports show no traffic problems related to the site's access. There is concern about safety if traffic volumes grow on Highway 53, the letter reads.

The county commissioners will hold a hearing on the permit application at 6 p.m. on Dec. 9 in Room 1 of the Kootenai County Administration Building.

Wilson plans to recruit more protesters by going door to door and advertising in the newspaper, he said.

"We're going to fight it," he said.

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