Bannock County resident Trinette Davis speaks in opposition to a proposed hot asphalt plant at Thursday’s Bannock County Planning and Development Council. | Kalama Hines, EastIdahoNews.com
CHUBBUCK — Around 200 people packed the Chubbuck City Council Chambers and an overflow room, with the vast majority of them there to oppose a proposed hot asphalt plant off Siphon Road.
A Bannock County Planning and Development Council meeting originally scheduled for July 13 had to be rescheduled after more than 100 people — beyond what is allowed in council chambers — attended the meeting. That meeting was held at Chubbuck City Hall — which was barely large enough itself — Thursday night.
Of those in attendance, around 20 chose to speak against the proposal, while another 80 or so registered their opposition but chose not to speak or ceded their time to another. Many residents in attendance expressed some frustration when they learned their submittal of a written statement eliminated them from being allowed to speak at the meeting. Among those who did speak were a medical care provider, a former Bannock County Assessor and a former planning and zoning council member.
The first speaker, one of two people who elected to be noted as present and neutral to the proposal, was escorted out of council chamber for demanding Bannock County Planning and Development Director Hal Jensen put down his phone and pay attention.
An announcement was made stating that members of the council are often checking their phone for information pertaining to the proposal in question.
Trinette Davis speaks to the council. | Kalama Hines, EastIdahoNews.com
One of the residents who spoke against the proposal was Curtis Nielson. He addressed the council as a licensed physician’s assistant speaking to the potential health concerns a hot asphalt would present.
“Established residents,” he said, chose to live in the area of the proposed plant — near West Lacy and North Rio Vista Roads — for the peace and tranquility the area provided. But, he continued, the addition of a hot asphalt plant would adversely affect that peace and tranquility, and would create serious long-term health and wellness concerns for the residents.
Nielson said the introduction of the dust particles created by plants like the one proposed would lead to chronic lung disease.
Former Bannock County Assessor Dave Packer took a different perspective, speaking instead to the substantial negative impact the plant would have on property value.
Like nearly every other speaker, Nielson and Packer also pointed to the fact that allowing a hot asphalt plant would go against the county’s comprehensive plan.
Another resident, Mark Stenberg, spoke at length about how the proposal would violate that comprehensive plan — and how allowing a plant on this land would violate zoning ordinance.
According to the application, the parcel of land included in the proposal spans 158.46 acres. Some 130 acres of that land, Stenberg said, is zoned for agriculture, which would allow for mining. The other 28 or so acres is zoned for residential, which would not allow for mining.
And, he concluded, asphalt production — which includes gravel-crushing — would not be allowed on either parcel, per zoning ordinance.
Stenberg asked the board that, should it consider passing the proposal, it first require the applicant — Idaho Materials and Construction — apply to have all the land rezoned. Only after the rezoning process is concluded, he said, should the company be allowed to apply to use the land for mining and crushing gravel.
That, he added, would be another concern as the parcel in question would better serve the county being rezoned for residential, allowing for the construction of more homes. That sentiment was echoed by Packer.
Another resident, Trinette Davis, chose to address the impact gravel mines have on the land and how their operations affect the neighborhood around them.
She showed EastIdahoNews.com pictures of the land as it sits now — with potato plants — followed by pictures of other mines in the area.
Courtesy Trinette Davis
“They totally gut it, they destroy. There’s no ag left,” she said.
Davis also spoke about the truck traffic that would be created by an asphalt plant. There are already trucks that drive through the neighborhood, she explained, often crossing into oncoming lanes in order to make the area’s tight turns.
According to the application, the proposed plant would add an additional 200 semi trips daily. That breaks down to about one truck every three-and-a-half minutes, six days a week.
A truck moved into oncoming lanes to turn, something Trinette Davis says is already a regular occurrence in her neighborhood. If approved, the asphalt plant would bring a dramatic increase in semi traffic to the area. | Courtesy Trinette Davis
Prior to the public forum, Idaho Materials and Construction was given six minutes to support their application. The company was represented by its real estate manager, Dak Maxfield, who was prepared for many of the concerns that were eventually addressed.
He said dust, smoke and chemical contamination amounts that would be created by the plant are similar to those created by farm equipment during harvest season.
“These are all inconveniences we deal with because of the value,” Maxfield said.
He said that a raised berm surrounding the plant would mitigate dust and noise pollution. Residents groaned and later refuted that claim.
While fielding questions from the council, Maxfield said the plant would provide work for 15 full-time employees, but noted that those employees would not be newly-hired but transfers from other plants.
And when he said the plant would be for “strictly gravel-crushing to begin with,” many in the audience repeated “to begin with,” apparently questioning the company’s long-term intentions.
Finally, Maxfield said the mine is expected to have a lifespan of 25 years and that the proposed plant would use water from a nearby canal for irrigation. Though he did add that the plant would use water from an on-site well in the production of asphalt — again drawing the ire of the audience.
No one spoke in support of the proposal or registered their support with the council.
Following the public forum, the meeting was concluded. The council did not vote on the proposal. They will do so at a future meeting. The council’s next meeting is scheduled for August 16.
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