With the final approval of the Dutra asphalt plant expected by the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors next week, opponents of the plans are mounting a last-minute effort to halt the project in its tracks.
While some have vowed to file a lawsuit if the controversial project goes forward, others are working to halt the Board of Supervisors' approval at a vote on Tuesday.
The board is expected to sign off on the project on Dec. 14. In a straw vote in October, Supervisors Mike Kerns, Efren Carrillo and Paul Kelley gave their blessing to the project, while Valerie Brown and Shirlee Zane opposed it. Kerns said last week that since the informal October vote, county staff has drafted the language of the approval, which will be finalized Tuesday unless any supervisors reverse their vote.
Some opponents of the plant have said they are planning to pressure Carrillo to deny the project, believing that he would be most likely "swing vote" based on his back-and-forth stance on the plant in the past.
Kerns, who is Petaluma's representative on the board, said he will vote in favor of the project because enough has been changed from the Dutra Group's original proposal to better protect against air quality and other environmental concerns.
Kerns added that the plant's planned site, across from Shollenberger Park, is in the best available location and is already in an industrial area.
"It is not a different use than what is already there," he said.
County planning staff also recommended approval of the plant, saying that "significant but unavoidable" impacts remain.
On Monday, Petaluma's City Council re-affirmed its unanimous opposition to the plant, voting to send a strongly worded letter to the Board of Supervisors urging it to reconsider.
The letter was authored by Councilmember Mike Healy, who said it aims to "broaden the scope of opposition" that the council had previously outlined.
There was some disagreement among the council members on the tone of the letter, with some wishing not to portray the board negatively for their approval of the project.
"It is kind of strong, but it's intended to be strong," said Healy about the wording of the letter.
The council eventually agreed on a letter that outlined possible negative impacts to Shollenberger Park, a popular wetlands park adjacent to the Petaluma River, and the region's sense of cooperation. Council members agreed that the location rather than specific details of the plant was a "deal breaker."
Dutra's current plans call for an asphalt plant between the Petaluma River and Highway 101 that will process 570,425 tons of asphalt and rock material per year. The company plans to ship rock material to a site owned by Shamrock Materials just north of the facility. Previous incarnations of the plans included construction of a new barge off-load site and taller smokestack height.
David Keller, founder of the Petaluma River Council, previously stated that opponents plan to sue the county if the project is approved. He did not return calls for comment about the grounds for the suit.
Joan Cooper of Friends of the Petaluma River said that the possible legal challenge would focus on the air quality effects of emissions from the plant and the impact on Shollenberger Park. She also said that Dutra did not provide a consistent project description for the public to review, as required in state environmental laws.