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Despite strong opposition to project across from Petaluma park, county supervisors say effects will be mitigated, give tentative OK

  • Persons opposing the Dutra asphalt plant on the Petaluma River,including Julia Luna,left, of Petaluma, gather prior to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors meeting's afternoon hearing with signs expressing their oppsition.

Despite overwhelming opposition from Petaluma residents, Sonoma County supervisors Tuesday tentatively approved plans by Dutra Materials to construct an asphalt production plant across the Petaluma River from Shollenberger Park.

The 4-1 straw vote came at the end of a 5?-hour public hearing that echoed land use issues raised during last week's hearing on a Jess Jackson winery in Knights Valley. Both projects raised questions about the type of developments allowed under the General Plan, which supervisors approved late last year.

Shirlee Zane, newly elected 3rd District supervisor, voted against both the Dutra and Jackson proposals, saying neither project reflected area residents' views of the 2020 General Plan.

Asphalt plant hearing

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"If we put an asphalt plant at the entrance to Sonoma County, how is that going to brand us?" Zane asked her colleagues. "This board needs to ask themselves whether having an asphalt plant there merits changing our vision of Sonoma County."

However, Mike Kerns, the south county supervisor who represents the area, insisted that the Petaluma River has historically hosted industrial uses such as Shamrock Materials as well as two previous Dutra sites further upriver.

"We would not be here today if it were not (proposed) right next to Shollenberger Park," Kerns said. "This is a relocation of an existing plant, one that's had minimal complaints."

The San Rafael-based construction materials company, which receives quarry rock by barge, operated for 20 years at an upriver location and then for another three years nearby until the county shut it down last year for operating on an expired use permit. It proposes a state-of-the-art facility on a strip of land on the east side of Highway 101.

Plans include asphalt mixing, aggregate recycling and preservation of 19 acres as wetlands. The proposed site is zoned for commercial use. Approval of supervisors is needed because production of road construction material is an industrial use not allowed under the General Plan.

"It is a relocation of an existing use a half-mile away," company spokeswoman Aimi Dutra told supervisors.

Supervisor Valerie Brown said opponents failed to present any evidence of complaints with Dutra's prior operations or any data to rebut the draft environmental review that determined most of the project's effects could be mitigated.


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