Divided Santa Rosa council approves more asphalt plant silos

A Santa Rosa asphalt plant will be allowed to add three huge new storage silos without the additional environmental study demanded by neighbors worried about air quality and other impacts.

Dozens of neighbors appealed Tuesday night to the City Council to require the additional study, but many also supported the Bodean Company's application for upgrades it says will lessen the impact of plant operations on the neighborhood just northwest of downtown.

On a 4-3 vote, the City Council denied the appeal brought by a group of residents who argued that the new equipment would allow the plant to expand production in violation of zoning rules meant to restrict the plant's operations to its historical usage.

Vice Mayor John Sawyer noted that the Bay Area Regional Air Quality Management District had concluded that the project would improve the air quality related to the plant.

"Isn't that what we want right now? An operator that is responsibly complying with our environmental regulations?" Sawyer said.

But Susan Gorin said she has seen the "enormous amount of dust" that emanates from the Maxwell Court plant, fully expected the issue would head to the court and wanted to "err on the side of caution in asking for more complete environmental information."

"We know that long-term this is not the place for an asphalt plant," she said.

The plant operators want to spend $1.5 million to add three 82-foot silos, each with the capacity to store 280 tons of mixed asphalt. Bodean general manager Bill Williams insisted the upgrades wouldn't result in an increase in the plant's production, which he said would remain limited to 295 tons per hour.

But neighbors and some council members were unconvinced.

Both sides resorted to simplistic analogies to explain how this could be the case. Williams likened the plant's operations to baking individual casseroles whenever dinner guests arrived instead of cooking a larger casserole, keeping it warm and having it ready for them when they arrive.

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