Bonner County commissioners in Idaho have backed the Planning & Zoning (P&Z) Commission’s decision to allow an asphalt batch plant to be moved from Sandpoint to Sagle, despite opposition from neighbours and landowners.
A report by Bonner County Daily Bee says the terms of the proposal will allow Interstate Concrete & Asphalt to move the plant from Frank Linscott’s gravel quarry on the west side of US Highway 95 north of Monarch Road.
The county’s decision was followed by a five-hour appeal hearing which filed an 85-seat conference room, the article adds.
A temporary batch plant has operated at the quarry intermittently over the years to accommodate large highway projects in the Panhandle. In 2015, a board of the county commissioners rejected a proposal to make the plant permanent due to its incompatibility with the county’s comprehensive land use plan.
In November 2018, the P&Z approved a follow-up proposal which was then appealed by landowners who insisted that a permanent plant would threaten air and water quality, as well as ruin their health and lower property values.
Jared Wise, director of Interstate’s Sandpoint operations, stated that the plant has more than 400 pollution filter socks, and stack testing has shown that emissions are up to 73% below thresholds established by the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality.
Steven Syrcle, the project’s engineer, said the Sandpoint plant has been operating for years in an area that has 422 parcels in a half-mile radius. If it relocated to Sagle, the facility would be in the half-mile radius of 44 parcels.
“They have been successfully operating them in a safe manner,” Syrcle added.
During the hearing, a particular concern was raised on the stockpiles of disused road asphalt which is recycled into new asphalt. Opponents emphasised that stormwater runoff from the stockpiles would infiltrate the ground and threaten the quality of wells and the Sagle Aquifer.
Mike Erickson was one of several landowners who advocated for a study of baseline water quality conditions and test wells to determine if the plant is polluting the environment.
Commissioner Dan McDonald said he had trouble accepting the argument that Interstate’s operations would transition from smooth the horrible if it were to change areas.
“I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around that somehow changing,” added McDonald.
Commissioner Jeff Connolly noted that Interstate had not revealed itself as a bad actor in its operations anywhere in the Northwest.
“I don’t see a lot of places better than this. The fact of the matter is that these plants are going to be somewhere,” Connolly added.
Board chairman Glen Bailey said the conditions of approval will require Interstate to use the best-available emission control technologies and operate within state and federal air quality guidelines.
“The conditions, if we go ahead and decide to approve this, pretty much cover the concerns we have heard today,” Bailey added.