A Santa Rosa asphalt plant's controversial plan to add three new 82-foot high silos was rejected Thursday night by the city's Design Review Board.

On a 3-3 vote, the board denied the Bodean Company's request for an exemption from the city's typical height limit of 55 feet.

The company will appeal the decision to the City Council, general manager Bill Williams said.

In June, the council rejected an appeal by neighbors seeking to block the project over fears it would increase production levels, something that the plant strongly denied.

Bodean claims the $1.5 million project won't increase the production capacity, but would help it operate more efficiently and sharply lower energy use, dust and odors.

Board members who voted in favor of the project said the energy savings and improved air quality predicted by the project outweighed the visual impact of towers that would be 27 feet higher than normally allowed.

"It's not a library we're looking at today, it's an industrial use," board member Warren Hedgpeth said.

Opponents called the new towers inappropriate for the neighborhood and not in keeping with the city's zoning policy that envisions the area one day transitioning from its current industrial zoning to a more residential use.

Board member Kris Sunderlage stressed that the city would soon have a Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit station serving rail passengers not far from the Maxwell Drive site.

"This is how people coming to our town will see us," Sunderlage said.

She also said the visual impact of the project wouldn't just be for the West End neighborhood, but for the whole city.

The motion failed despite a proposed requirement that the plant add landscaping to shield the new silos from view from surrounding residences.

A group calling itself Citizens for Safe Neighborhoods is suing the city in Sonoma County Superior Court over the City Council's approval of a permit for the project, claiming it failed to conduct sufficient environmental review.

Williams has said the company plans to move ahead with the project despite the lawsuit.

(You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or kevin.mccallum@pressdemocrat.com.)

Groundwater: What you need to know

For information on the Sonoma County’s Sustainable Groundwater Management program, click here.

For a Department of Water Resources tool that will show if your property is in a groundwater basin, click here.

Groundwater basins are California’s largest reservoirs, more than 10 times the size of all surface reservoirs combined.

Groundwater provides about 38 percent of the state’s total annual water supply, and up to 60 percent in dry years.

Sonoma County draws more than 70 percent of its water from wells to meet demand for 260 million gallons a day.

More than 80 percent of Californians rely, in part, on groundwater for their drinking water.

Groundwater and surface water are interconnected, and groundwater pumping draws water from rivers and streams.