Batch plant decision delayed

Permit request must be analyzed as stand-alone application

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COEUR d'ALENE - No closure yet.

After a hearing on Thursday continued from last week, the Kootenai County commissioners still didn't make a decision on Coeur d'Alene Paving's request to relocate its controversial asphalt batch plant from Rathdrum to the state line.

The officials chose to continue their deliberations later in the month, to review the record and deem how to proceed with a legal snag.

"I'm disappointed for people who continue to come here, and for the applicants who continue to put in their resources," said Commissioner Dan Green about delaying a decision. "We want to ensure the standards we're applying are appropriate and defensible."

Coeur d'Alene Paving is pursuing a special notice permit to operate an asphalt batch plant on 116 acres a half mile west of Beck Road. The company is following the previous commissioners' counsel to find a more suitable site for their plant off Highway 53, near a dense residential area.

Concerns arose on Thursday when legal staff said the new permit request must be analyzed as a stand-alone application, unconnected to the Highway 53 plant.

The commissioners had only recommended, not officially conditioned, Coeur d'Alene Paving to find a better site, said county attorney John Cafferty.

"There's nothing in the approval of the Highway 53 batch plant that requires it ever leave, or that it be the only batch plant (the company) ever owns," Cafferty said, adding that the commissioners could not base their decision on which site was more suitable.

Commissioners Dan Green and Jai Nelson balked at not weighing in the Highway 53 site, after the applicants and neighbors had testified about it.

"I know what this was brought forward for," Green said of how the application followed the advice to relocate. "To ignore that, I just can't do that."

Green would be more willing to approve the permit, he said, if the applicants had agreed to never operate a plant at the Rathdrum site again.

"I was expecting to hear that and was disappointed when I didn't," he said.

Nelson said she felt she had been misled about the application and its connection to the 53 site.

Commissioner Todd Tondee said the commissioners should just make a decision off the application in front of the them, and the legal standards it must meet.

"We need to act on fact," Tondee said.

The deliberations will continue at 5 p.m. on Oct. 22. No public testimony will be heard.

Todd Kaufman, co-owner of Coeur d'Alene Paving, was disappointed the decision was put off.

"Clearly we're going to move the plant," Kaufman said, adding that the commissioners had opportunities to clear up confusion earlier. "We didn't want to give up the option to have a plant at the 53 site, in case a highway job came up."

The company has invested well into six figures in finding a home for the batch plant, he said.

Roughly 30 attended Thursday's hearing over the commissioners' recent site visits to multiple batch plants, including the Highway 53 plant.

Several Newman Lake, Wash., and Post Falls residents unloaded their worries of the pollution's potential impact on their health, and on local children.

One woman teared up, and others repeated promises that lawsuits would be filed if the permit was approved.

Mark Boyle with the Department of Environmental Quality assured batch plants are monitored to meet health and safety standards.

But chemicals at the plant will still smell, he acknowledged.

"We don't guarantee pristine environments with our permits," Boyle said.

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