Commissioners approve state line asphalt plant

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Neither applicants nor opponents got all they desired on Thursday evening, when the Kootenai County commissioners approved the operation of a protested asphalt plant on the state line, with a number of restrictive conditions attached.

The commissioners voted unanimously to grant a special notice permit to Coeur d'Alene Paving to run an asphalt batch plant on 116 acres just west of Stateline Speedway.

"It is compatible with the neighborhood? My answer to that is yes," said Commissioner Todd Tondee, before the vote in the county administration building. "Any economic and social impacts will be mitigated."

But as a condition of the approval, the company must also give up the permit for its asphalt plant off Highway 53 in Rathdrum.

"I don't understand it," said Craig Cozad, Coeur d'Alene Paving co-owner, after the decision. "I'm not sure it's even legal, what they did."

The decision is the latest development in a several-year saga, since Coeur d'Alene Paving was advised by the previous board of commissioners to seek a more suitable location for its unpopular batch plant near a residential area in Rathdrum.

The Highway 53 plant has been protested by scores of neighbors since its construction in 2008, and even sparked litigation.

The new site at state line had also roused objections from dozens of Washington and North Idaho residents at recent hearings.

Neighbors had protested over worries of noise, smell, dust and health hazards.

But the commissioners deemed the application met all legal standards for approval on Thursday.

The officials acknowledged there are other industry operations in close proximity to the site, including another asphalt plant.

"I heard DEQ (Department of Environmental Quality) testify about the impacts, that we're below the thresholds," said Commissioner Dan Green of pollution levels.

The commissioners attached several conditions to control other issues.

Coeur d'Alene Paving has five years to activate the new permit, allowing time to prep the new site.

The plant's hours of operations will be restricted to 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Mondays through Saturdays, with no operations on major holidays.

The facility is also allowed to run 60 nights of the year, as necessary for city, county, federal or highway district projects.

The commissioners agreed that Coeur d'Alene Paving must also relinquish its special notice permit to operate a plant at the Highway 53 site.

There has been an understanding all along, Green said, that if the new site was approved, the Highway 53 location would be closed down.

"What the previous board recommended, and the testimony from citizens of what they expected, I just don't believe we can ignore those," he said.

Cozad was irked by the conditions.

He and co-owner Todd Kaufman have said they prefer not to give up the Highway 53 site, which they have invested six figures into developing and could still use for occasional projects.

"We'll have to do research, to find out if it's legal," Cozad said of the commissioners' condition.

He also criticized the hour restrictions, as their current plant operates from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Yet Coeur d'Alene Paving, which has suffered from the commissioners' ban against night work at the Rathdrum location, might still be willing to accept the terms of the new site, he said.

"It is our plan to move. I can't emphasize that enough," Cozad said.

The permit will be expedited, as the commissioners made their decision 30 days after the close of the public hearing on the application.

Multiple residents near the state line site have threatened to sue if the permit was approved.

Tim Lewis, who lives in the Woodbridge subdivision within a mile of the site on the Idaho side, was irate after the vote.

He feels like the commissioners were placing a company's needs above citizens', he said.

"They don't have to live with it. We do," Lewis said. "(Coeur d'Alene Paving) talks about what they've invested, but what about what we've invested in our homes?"

He predicted that neighbors won't stand for the decision.

"They're just trying to shift the problem from the 53 site to the state line," Lewis said.

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