Asphalt plant spurs hot debate

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After four years of hearings, legal battles and neighbors' protests, Coeur d'Alene Paving could land a final home for its controversial asphalt batch plant this week.

The company will go before the Kootenai County commissioners on Thursday evening over a request to relocate the plant from a dense residential area in Rathdrum to the Washington/Idaho border.

The company is requesting a conditional use permit to operate its asphalt batch plant in a 116-acre property a half mile west of Beck Road and just west of Stateline Speedway.

The commissioners earlier approved rezoning the acreage from agriculture to mining, with the knowledge that the company hoped to move the plant there.

"I'm confident they wanted us to look for a new home (for the plant), and they approved the mining zone," said Todd Kaufman, co-owner of Coeur d'Alene Paving. "I see no reason that they won't approve the asphalt plant, too."

The plant was initially constructed at its current site off Highway 53 in 2008. The operation immediately garnered opposition from nearby residents, concerned about noise, pollution and impacts to property values.

A temporary permit from the commissioners in 2009 went through a court remand.

The commissioners gave approval for the plant to remain at its current site in 2010, with conditions of limited hours and a recommendation to move the plant to a less residential location.

"(The new site) is like in kind," Kaufman pointed out. "It's right next to the race track, near a concrete plant and across the street from another asphalt batch plant."

Both Washington and North Idaho residents have objected to the plant operating at the state line, though, with the same worries that Rathdrum residents have voiced.

"There are big concerns. It's bad enough we have to deal with the mining (activities nearby), we don't want the exposure to toxins that go with the asphalt batch plant," said Post Falls resident Hayley Lake.

She hopes to see a crowd at the hearing, she added.

"You can see the frustration with the commissioners, people believe their minds are made up," Lake said.

The hearing is set for 6 p.m. Thursday in Room 1 of the county administration building, 451 Government Way.

A group of Rathdrum residents dropped an appeal last year of Coeur d'Alene Paving's current permit for the plant. The Supreme Court also ruled against the same group in its challenge of a rezone the company had obtained near the plant.

"If it passes, we'll have to go the legal route to stop it," Lake said.

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