A Santa Rosa asphalt plant was granted a permit Thursday to install three new towering storage silos over concerns expressed by neighbors that it would allow expanded production at the plant.

The Santa Rosa Planning Commission voted 3-2 to approve the permit. Neighbors vowed to appeal to the City Council.

Bodean Company general manager Bill Williams stressed the additional storage capacity would not increase the production capability of the plant, which he said would remain at 300 tons per hour.

"The silos do not allow us to produce more," Williams said. "It is not like coming in to buy coffee at a convenience store."

The difference was the additional storage would allow the plant to operate more efficiently.

The company said the changes proposed for the plant would actually reduce many of the concerns raised by neighbors. Williams said it would reduce nighttime operations of the plant by allowing asphalt to be mixed ahead of time for night paving jobs.

Greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced because wait time for trucks will be trucked and fumes known as "blue smoke" would be captured by modern vacuum equipment on the silos.

Neighbor Jennifer Watson said she couldn't believe how city officials could conclude the project wouldn't create a significant impact on the area.

"That would bring the equivalent of three 7-story buildings into our neighborhood," Watson said.

The silos, which will cost $1.5 million to install, can hold 280 tons of mixed asphalt each. They only hold the product for 18 to 24 hours, Williams said.

Commissioner Curtis Byrd was skeptical of the company's claims that the additional storage capacity wouldn't allow it to produce more product.

"I don't see how it's not an increase," Byrd said.

But other commissioners praised the company for its upgrades, and noted that the energy efficiency and resulting greenhouse gas emission reductions were precisely the kinds of actions the city is trying to encourage under the Climate Action Plan the commission passed earlier in the same meeting.

The commissioners also noted that the plant has operated there since the 1950s and has a legal right to do so despite the fact that it no longer conforms to current zoning.

"I would imagine most of the people in this room got here on a road," noted Commissioner Peter Stanley. "Batch plants need to be in close proximity to the road they are fixing."

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