Plenty of heat, but no vote

Commissioners table decision on contentious asphalt plant

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Some yelled, some pleaded and one individual threatened legal action on Thursday night over a proposed asphalt batch plant by the state line.

But after a four-hour public hearing, the Kootenai County commissioners agreed they couldn't make a decision without seeing people's health and pollution concerns first-hand, by conducting a site visit at two already operating plants.

"People have pointed out, did we look and see and understand what we were approving? I think it's a valid point," said Commissioner Jai Nelson at the county administration building. "I've never been to (an asphalt batch plant), and I'm open to going to several."

The commissioners voted unanimously to table the hearing on Coeur d'Alene Paving's request for a special notice permit to relocate its controversial asphalt plant in Rathdrum to a 116-acre property just west of Stateline Speedway.

The officials will visit the plant's current site off Highway 53, as well as a Poe Asphalt plant by the state line, at 10 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 1.

They will continue the hearing at 9 a.m. on Oct. 4.

"I'd like to look at what that operation is," Nelson said of Coeur d'Alene Paving's current plant site.

Neighbors have protested the plant location and litigated against Coeur d'Alene Paving since the structure was built off Highway 53 four years ago.

Residents have long complained of noise, pollution and impacts to property values.

The paving company, which has a permit to operate permanently off Highway 53, is pursuing the state line site because of a county recommendation to seek a more suitable site.

"Everything's better about this site," said co-owner Todd Kaufman at the hearing.

There are "less neighbors" and similar uses nearby, he said, including another batch plant.

He reminded that his company's driving priority is to obtain better operating hours at the new location, as the county has restricted hours at the current site.

"If we had better hours where we are, we wouldn't be here tonight," Kaufman said.

With roughly 50 attending the hearing, a long stream of Spokane and Kootenai County residents passionately testified against the relocation.

Some spoke of folks already struggling to keep their homes, whose property values might be devastated. They also pointed to retirees and children with breathing and heart issues, who already struggle with fumes from the nearby Poe Asphalt batch plant.

Diane Fink of Newman Lake, Wash., noted that two residential areas and a school lie within a mile of the site.

"There are too many people involved in this site, and pollution doesn't know any boundaries," she said, adding that she would create an asphalt phone tree to keep county lines "lit up all day long."

Norman Haupt, who lives in the nearby Woodbridge subdivision on the Kootenai County side, said without limited hours, the plant operation's noise would "go on forever."

Sheryl Trenhaile said she had moved from Rathdrum to the Woodbridge subdivision to escape the fumes of the Highway 53 plant.

"I moved from Rathdrum to get away from the grossness, not be near the grossness," she said.

Joyce Flanigan of Newman Lake said she would pursue legal action upon county approval.

Only Tyson Hegel, who lives by the plant's current site, supported the relocation.

He has been "a patient neighbor" because he understood the plant would move, he said. Someone backed out of buying his house when that seemed uncertain, he added.

"They were afraid they would be moving into a loud and stinky environment," Hegel said.

Coeur d'Alene Paving's representative, Steve Syrcle with Tri State Engineering, pointed out that fumes and noise would be regulated.

"I do understand the health concerns," he said, an asthmatic himself. "But I have to believe in rules and regulations. I have to believe the agencies we have are in place to protect us."

Kaufman was unsure of the Highway 53 site's future, if the state line operation were approved.

"Will I say I never want to put a plant at 53 to do a job? No. We put a lot of money into that other pit, put a lot of money into that property," he said, adding that six figures have gone into infrastructure and legal fees.

Coeur d'Alene Paving would not withdraw its application if the commissioners also restricted operation hours at the state line site, Kaufman said.

"I'd be back in here asking you to amend it, as soon as it got done," he said.

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