Johnson County Commission questions proposed asphalt plant pollution

07/07/2014 1:41 PM

07/07/2014 1:41 PM

With continued concern over noise and air pollution, the Johnson County Commission voted to push a proposed concrete and asphalt plant near Edgerton back to the zoning board.

The commission on Thursday unanimously directed the Southwest Consolidated Zoning Board to further research a proposal from Bettis Asphalt and Construction, Inc. for an asphalt and concrete plant at the existing quarry at 20125 Sunflower Road, just outside the Edgerton city limit.

Jim Hubbard, the attorney representing Bettis, said his client would like a conditional use permit granted as soon as possible so it can provide building materials to the BNSF intermodal project under construction near Gardner.

A few Edgerton residents addressed the commission with concerns that the asphalt and concrete plant would add noise and air pollution to the city and increase truck traffic through the town.

One issue is the entrance of the plant, which would be the current entrance on the north of a Bettis-owned quarry where the plant would be located.

City Administrator Beth Linn said her city wants Bettis move the entrance to the quarry to the south across from Martin Creek Park to improve visibility for trucks entering the road.

A traffic study done by Bettis showed that the current entrance to the north of the park met safety standards and visibility would improve if a line of trees along the road were removed.

Linn said that entrance was still too close to where Sunflower Road curves into Nelson Street, a curve one resident called “a dead man’s curve.” And removing the trees would eliminate a noise and sight barrier that currently buffers the city from activities at the quarry, Linn said.

Mary Brown, a resident of Edgerton, said truck traffic through the city makes it dangerous for residents to park and drive downtown. Bettis trucks currently use city roads, like Nelson Street and Fourth Street, to supply materials to the Southwest Lawrence Trafficway project.

“You can’t back out of city hall or open car doors because of all the truck traffic,” she said.

Trucks to the BNSF intermodal would go south from the Bettis plant to Interstate 35 and not through the city.

But Linn said if the asphalt and concrete plant is built, it’s likely Bettis would bid on more projects in the Lawrence area and traffic through Edgerton would increase.

Liz Brooks, who moved to Edgerton with her family two years ago, said she’s concerned about toxic fumes from the asphalt plant affecting her children.

Cole Anderson, a representative from Bettis, said the concrete and asphalt plant would use a dust bag, a chamber filled with screens and filters, to capture more than 90 percent of dust the plant produces. Anderson said particulates, like dust, are the only air pollutant the state regulates at Bettis because its emissions of other pollutants like petroleum fumes are too low to monitor.

Anderson also said the plant would not produce the common asphalt smell associated with road construction because that smell is produced by compacting the asphalt.

Brooks was not satisfied with this answer and questioned how increased truck traffic and the production of asphalt could not result in air pollution. She said a simple Google search yielded several examples of cities complaining about the air quality near asphalt plants.

“We’ve looked into moving because I can’t go to bed a night thinking about what my children might be breathing,” she said.

The commissioners were also not satisfied. John Toplikar, who represents Edgerton, said he was unsure the issues of noise and air pollution had been properly researched. He suggested the zoning board study those two matters further.

Besides Edgerton, Toplikar said he was concerned about several county parks that surround the quarry. The Johnson County Park and Recreation District owns Mildale Farm on the north side of the quarry and the future Big Bull Creek Park to the east and south. The county leases Martin Creek Park, directly to the west of the quarry, to Edgerton. Toplikar is concerned the asphalt and concrete plant could affect use at those parks.

“We may be setting our parks up to not be used as often or at all,” he said.

Chairman Ed Eilert proposed the matter be moved back to the zoning board. The board meets July 23 at 7 p.m. at the Gardner Community Center.

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