Edgerton residents have prevailed — at least for now — in their efforts to stop Bettis Asphalt & Construction Inc. from expanding its operations to include an asphalt and concrete plant on property just outside the city limits.
The company withdrew its application for a conditional use permit to allow the plant. An announcement to that effect during Thursday’s Johnson County Commission meeting met with a smattering of applause from residents who showed up for a scheduled hearing.
“I’m ecstatic about it,” said Jenettie M. Davis of Edgerton. “We’re a small town, we’re a family town and that’s the way we want to stay,” she said.
The company made a number of concessions during the permit process, which began this summer. But when it became clear that many of the neighbors remained adamantly opposed, company officials decided to go “back to the drawing board” to find a plan that might be more acceptable, said attorney Jim Hubbard, who represented Bettis in its application. There probably won’t be another request in the immediate future, he said.
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The proposal, originally for a 10-year conditional use permit at an existing quarry at 20125 Sunflower Road, was the subject of impassioned testimony over the summer from Edgerton residents who opposed it.
Residents worried about how the plant would affect the quality of life in Edgerton. The city is already dealing with increased truck and rail traffic from the nearby new intermodal freight facility, as well as a grain elevator and wastewater plant.
Dust and odors also were high on the list of concerns. Some said the increased activity would ruin a nearby park for children and endanger their health. Neighbors also were concerned about possible health effects of emissions from the asphalt plant.
Bettis made many concessions to the city and residents during the process. The company agreed to limit its hours of operations, reduce the use permit from 10 to five years, change the entrance and make improvements at the plant that would limit dust and dirt tracking on the city streets.
But ultimately the residents were not swayed.
The application ran into trouble this month when the Edgerton City Council withdrew its support. The council previously had worked out a deal in which Bettis would pay an impact fee of 5 cents per ton of asphalt produced and sold. The revenues were to go toward road repair.
The city had been concerned about the extra 300 to 500 trucks per day the business would generate. About 720 vehicles a day already travel the road. At a recent town hall meeting, neighbors argued that the five jobs the new plant would create were not worth granting the approval, according to Paul Greeley of the county planning staff.
The Gardner-Edgerton School District also opposed the plant.
The proposal went through numerous city and county meetings, including one in August where residents gave sometimes tearful pleas to the county commission to deny the permit. After that meeting, the commission delayed its decision until the neighbors and Bettis officials could meet again and try to hammer things out. At the end of that meeting, which was Oct. 15, residents had not budged in their opposition and the county commission scheduled a final vote last week.
County Commission Chairman Ed Eilert telegraphed his thoughts on the issue Oct. 16 when he asked staff to prepare a resolution for commissioners to discuss that would deny the permit.
A few people who turned out at the commission meeting Thursday said they were pleased with the outcome.
Davis, who has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, said air quality was a top priority for senior citizens who live nearby. She also disliked the idea of increased truck traffic.
“I don’t want to be a hood ornament,” Davis said.
Joyce Nolte, also of Edgerton, said she knows about the dust because she lives across the street from the quarry. “It is just white from dust,” she said. “Any time a truck rolls up to a stop, the dust just flies.”