By BRETT WILKISON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Opponents and supporters of the proposed Dutra Materials asphalt plant south of Petaluma are set to have their date in court Friday.
A lawsuit challenging approval of the project, one of the most controversial land-use issues in Sonoma County, is scheduled for a 2:30 p.m. hearing before county Judge Rene Chouteau.
The civil court procedure, which does not feature a jury or witness testimony, is expected to include oral arguments by attorneys from both sides. Afterward, Chouteau will rely on written arguments and about 50,000 pages of public records, including environmental studies and public comment on the project, to make his decision. A ruling could follow in two to three weeks.
Sonoma County, Dutra Materials and its business partners are being sued by the City of Petaluma, five environmental and community groups and several individuals opposed to the asphalt plant.
The plaintiffs contend the county failed to adequately study and address the plant’s impacts on public health, air and water quality, and nearby public park land. In approving the project, opponents claim, the county failed to follow both state environmental and open meeting laws.
The lawsuit seeks a new environmental review and asks for the plant’s approval to be set aside and any pending or current work halted.
The asphalt plant, first proposed six years ago, would be located on 38 acres on the Petaluma River across from Shollenberger Park. It was given final approval last December on 3-2 vote of the Board of Supervisors.
Project supporters say the project, which was previously turned down by supervisors because of environmental and public health concerns, was revised to include safeguards and other changes that minimize its impacts. They tout the plant as a source for local jobs and construction material.
Groups joining the City of Petaluma and the Petaluma River Council as plaintiffs in the lawsuit include Friends of Shollenberger Park, Moms for Clean Air, the Madrone Audubon Society and Petaluma Tomorrow.
In addition to Sonoma County and Dutra Materials, defendants in the lawsuit are Shamrock Materials, a neighboring business included in the project’s barge off-loading plans, Corto Meno Sand and Gravel and Peach Tree Terrace, which the lawsuit described as a California-based general partnership.