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Divided Santa Rosa council approves more asphalt plant silos

By KEVIN McCALLUM
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

A Santa Rosa asphalt plant will be allowed to add three huge new storage silos without the additional environmental study demanded by neighbors worried about air quality and other impacts.

Bodean Company's Santa Rosa plant operator Anthony Boyle runs the batch plant from the control room on Monday, April 23, 2012. (CHRISTOPHER CHUNG/ PD)

Dozens of neighbors appealed Tuesday night to the City Council to require the additional study, but many also supported the Bodean Company’s application for upgrades it says will lessen the impact of plant operations on the neighborhood just northwest of downtown.

On a 4-3 vote, the City Council denied the appeal brought by a group of residents who argued that the new equipment would allow the plant to expand production in violation of zoning rules meant to restrict the plant’s operations to its historical usage.

Vice Mayor John Sawyer noted that the Bay Area Regional Air Quality Management District had concluded that the project would improve the air quality related to the plant.

“Isn’t that what we want right now? An operator that is responsibly complying with our environmental regulations?” Sawyer said.

But Susan Gorin said she has seen the “enormous amount of dust” that emanates from the Maxwell Court plant, fully expected the issue would head to the court and wanted to “err on the side of caution in asking for more complete environmental information.”

“We know that long-term this is not the place for an asphalt plant,” she said.

The plant operators want to spend $1.5 million to add three 82-foot silos, each with the capacity to store 280 tons of mixed asphalt. Bodean general manager Bill Williams insisted the upgrades wouldn’t result in an increase in the plant’s production, which he said would remain limited to 295 tons per hour.

But neighbors and some council members were unconvinced.

Both sides resorted to simplistic analogies to explain how this could be the case. Williams likened the plant’s operations to baking individual casseroles whenever dinner guests arrived instead of cooking a larger casserole, keeping it warm and having it ready for them when they arrive.

“Nobody would conduct a dinner party this way, but that’s the way we do it at the batch plant,” Williams said.

He said the company spends $500,000 annually for natural gas, an amount that could be reduced by $175,000 with the storage silos because the plant could make all the asphalt it needed at once and store it.

He added that greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced because wait time for trucks will be reduced and fumes known as “blue smoke” would be captured by vacuum equipment on the new silos. He also said that nighttime operations and associated noise would be reduced.

He also likened it to a gas station that increases the size of its underground storage tanks, but not the number of pumps for motorists.

But opponents have used the analogy of a coffee shop with one 30-cup capacity coffee maker which loses business when the 31st customer doesn’t want to wait for a fresh pot to be brewed. The solution is to start the brewing earlier and store the coffee in three thermoses.

That would allow the owner to sell 120 cups of coffee during the rush period, which they argued in essence expands the operation.

“We are not here to shut Bodean down. We’re not anti-asphalt. We all drove here on roads,” said Allen Thomas, a leader in the West End Neighborhood and Historic District and former planning commissioner.

But Thomas and others pleaded for an environmental impact report to be required for the project to help residents better understand the air, dust, noise and other impacts of the plant.

Area resident and contractor Fritz Wisor said he has a positive impression of the Bodean Company generally but worries about his family’s health.

“Now is our time to actually lay it all out on the table about what it is we’re breathing every day,” Wisor said.

“I think we have to get real about how this place doesn’t really fit in the neighborhood,” added resident Kevin Pryne.

But that sentiment concerned several council members. Councilman Scott Bartley noted that the Station Area Plan the outlines the zoning for the area specifically included language to ensure that businesses weren’t pushed out until they were ready.

Planning Director Chuck Regalia said the city has no intention of trying to push the plant out. He expects that someday the demand for residential development around the train station will increase to the point where the owners of the property would want to build housing units on the site.

In 2007, when the station area plan was adopted, the city assumed that transition would happen more quickly than it likely will now, but “we still think it’ll happen at some point,” Regalia said.

Sawyer, Bartley, Mayor Ernesto Olivares and Jake Ours voted to deny the appeal. Gorin, Gary Wysocky and Marsha Vas Dupre voted to uphold it.





15 Responses to “Divided Santa Rosa council approves more asphalt plant silos”

  1. Henry Foster says:

    My sentiments, Grey. I think we should also be responsible for it. On the other hand, the politicians should start being smart and contribute some good solutions for these problems.

  2. Lilly says:

    I too was receptive to the “yes” vote from Bodean. I live on Decker St. in the West End Neighborhood.

    While some of my neighbors and those closer to the plant than me may be concerned, I trust the Bay Area Air Quality Management District’s evaluation. They’re on of the strictest air boards in the state…if the silos improve air quality in the area I’m all for it.

    Bodean’s been a part of this neighborhood for decades – if this were a new plant right in the area, of course I’d be opposed. But lets create a better environment for the neighborhood. Sounds ironic, but I value cleaner air more than ugly points of reference high in the distance

  3. Randy Santini says:

    John Sawyer votes for his pals in business instead of caring about the health and neighborhoods of the rest of us.
    I am pro business but an asphalt plant doesn’t belong in the middle of a neighborhood near downtown. This vote really opened my eyes about who
    John Sawyer is. If the PD was a real newspaper they might tell us if his campaign for Supervisor is being funded by these people. Mr Sawyer, you just lost my vote for Supervisor. We need leaders who are not bought and paid for by special business interests.

  4. Kirstin says:

    Grey — agreed that human beings are not always the most rational. By our nature, we are flawed. So, what makes you think that government, which is made up of people, has any more wisdom than anyone else? I know I am not always right. I’m sure we each know that. But my life is mine, and your life is yours. We don’t belong to the state. We are not its subjects. The state is our servant and as such it is there to help provide the framework for each of us to make the most of our lives. The state, as laid out by our U.S. Constitution is supposed to do limited things, and the rest of what life is about is for us to decide, not the state.

    I’m not an anarchist. I believe government has its place, but that place is NOT all-encompassing. I also believe proper taxes have their place and there are times and circumstances when I will agree to higher taxes. But I will not support irresponsible fiscal policies that run deficits, and spend heavily on programs which, in my view don’t belong in the government’s arena.

    That alphabet soup of quasi-government agencies we’ve currently got (ABAG, MTC, SCTA, etc.) should not even exist. They only place unneeded layers of bureacracy on our system and make it more difficult for citizens to find out what is happening with their government. And I’m opposed to such actions as Michael Allen’s legislation which would allow SMART to bypass local design commissions — that isn’t how government should work.

    But I am a believe too in intelligent, science-based environmental policies. But the lengths that some people want to take a zealotry that is not solidly backed by science far exceeds my view of what is good stewardship of our earth. Too much of the climate change agenda is just another means for attempted forced wealth redistribution. I’ve got nothing against people who want to redistribute their own wealth — by all means. But when they want to redistribute what others have without the express consent of those others, I’m not on board.

    Besides GAJ’s noting of the Climate Action Plan, I can cite a horde of laws that overreach, but for time’s sake will just cite three examples:

    Obamacare is bureaucracy gone mad at the federal level.

    At the state level: here is an interesting article that talks about the laws that have been passed in CA to allow Indian casinos to be built whether the rest of the poppulation in the area in question likes it or not (http://www.santaynezvalleyjournal.com/archive/10/25/10261/). I’d say those laws qualify as examples of what government should not do.

    And at the local level: have you seen the details of the North Santa Rosa Station Area Specific Plan? Talk about micromanaging…. http://ci.santa-rosa.ca.us/doclib/Documents/NSR_SASP_Draft_Streetscape_Standards.pdf

  5. Kirstin says:

    GAJ — thank you. I haven’t had time to read the Climate Action Plan, but I had heard of some of the specifics you cite, and agree that they don’t make sense, especially the matter of changing over from gas to electricity and ignoring that geyser (and hydro) power is green!

  6. Grey Whitmore says:

    “Americans could live free of Government oppression.” … which Americans would that be? The straight, white ones?

    In your founding fathers America people were owned. Were not allowed to marry who they loved. Were hanged for looking at someone wrong.

    Thanks but no thanks. I’ll take an America which has a government that tells its people that they are wrong sometimes.

  7. Follower says:

    “Do I think the government should make certain things hard. Absolutely.”

    WOW! It’s really fascinating to see how the liberal mind works.

    To think of all the people who have courageously risked and sometimes lost their lives, health, family and everything they ever held dear to make sure Americans could live free of Government oppression. From the wealthiest among our Founding Fathers who could have EASILY lived a life of luxury under British rule to the poor kid from the ghetto enlisting in the wake of 9/11.

    I don’t know how you were raised or what happened too you to leave your self esteem in such a state that you are unable to think for yourself, make good decisions for yourself or take care of yourself but none of that happened too me and I find your view of what American Government is supposed to be nothing short of despicable.

  8. GAJ says:

    @Kirstin.

    Examples of what you are talking about are in the Santa Rosa environmental road map that was recently approved.

    That document specifically ignores Hydro power and Geothermal power as “green” and lumps them in with coal as not counting toward the County’s “green” energy goals.

    In other words, the fact that we get 100% of our electricity from The Geysers is completely ignored in order to turn the screws and force people towards Solar, Wind and other more politically correct “green” power.

    They also want to eliminate appliances powered by “evil” natural gas, (such as my gas cooktop, gas water heater, gas heat, gas bbq etc), in favor of electricity.

    Complete madness and in 20 years it will be much much worse.

    My vehicles average45+ mpg, I’ve had an electric lawnmower for decades, I have low water use irrigation, I put a bucket in the low flow shower to capture water while it heats up and use it in my low flow toilet, when my roof is replaced I plan to install solar to get me out of the expensive tier 3 on my PG&E bill, I’ve owned a TOTAL of 3 cars in my 55 years, we recycle everything etc. etc.

    But ignoring The Geysers and trying to force me to buy electric appliances that I don’t want is just plain stupid.

    For crying out loud, the America’s Cup folks were sued and the City is now spending $150,000 for a study to evaluate the impact of the race on migrating birds!

    The list of PC insanity and stupid regulation over reach goes on and on in California.

  9. Grey Whitmore says:

    Kristin,

    I think it is a tough call right now, esp. as the planet heads towards 7 billion people. And I am specifically talking about the consumption of resources. We simply cannot continue as we have.

    If this means we have higher gas mileage cars and more compact residential development, I am all for it.

    Do I think the government should make certain things hard. Absolutely. We are not exactly the most rational of creatures when it comes to fouling our nest.

    But onto another topic, taxes and spending. Today’s tax rates are effectively low when looked at in historical terms.

    Here is just one of many articles that lays this out.

    http://www.businessinsider.com/history-of-tax-rates?op=1

    I think what troubles me the most are blanket statements that are not backed by facts.

    This article shows that spending is high relative to taxes. Yet taxes are historically low.

    American’s fighting against taxes, or regulation, are part of our national ethos and history. Fine, I think we should have those ideas in place but not to the exclusion of a healthy society.

    Again, not easy ideas but certainly ones worth in-depth discussion.

  10. Harry Litwin says:

    John Sawyer shows that his vote will always support business at the expense of everything else. I am all for helping business thrive, but come on, an asphalt plant in the middle of a neighborhood?!
    Sawyer has always done whatever his rich friends in business tell him to do and this is more of the same. No way is he or any of the jerks who voted for this getting my vote.

  11. Kirstin says:

    GW, what concerns me is the growing net of regulations, prohibitions, taxes, and what have you that is tightening on citizens. Call that what you will, but we are surrounded by politicians who think it is their right to micromanage the lives of American citizens. Thus, we are seeing the rise of federal, state, and local laws which unconstitutionally preempt individual rights to free speech, property, freedom of movement, etc. This is NOT the path I want America to go down. Do you?

  12. Grey Whitmore says:

    ICLEI. ICLEI. ICLEI.

    Agenda 21. Agenda 21. Agenda 21.

    Anyone else tired of the conspiracy theories that run through here?

  13. Canthisbe says:

    Haven’t been following this, but Jim raises a good point: why hasn’t the City and the neighbors worked on a tax-fee exchange with Bodean to get them to move to a location that would be better suited for its plant and allow it to expand if it wanted to before it spends $1.5 million to add three 82-foot silos? Why isn’t there a win – win available here?

  14. Kirstin says:

    I watched this part of the meeting on TV last night. I was pretty sure before they even began discussion that it would be a 4/3 vote split in BoDean’s favor. I’m glad BoDean was able to get the support of the majority of the council.

    Yes, BoDean was there first, and they should be grandfathered in to stay and continue their business.

    It is just so pesky for some to have to allow other people — people who actually produce a needed product no less — their rights, isn’t it? Oh, yeah, these people, some of BoDean’s “neighbors” and some of their city council (even some who upheld their rights), consider them an obstacle to the new, improved pack ‘n stack Transit Village they want to erect in the train corridor. It’s so easy to tell other people what they should do for you with their property, I guess.

    At least two of the councim members said BoDean should be helped to find another place IN Santa Rosa at some point. Seems to be a very unrealistic plan to me.

    We do need asphalt. We should make it here to avoid higher transporation costs, etc. I support BoDean and their improvements which should yield better air quality.

  15. Jim Bennett says:

    I was there.
    Although I understand the dust/smell incurred by some residents, Bodean was there first.
    When that area was largely rural in 1953 and the smell of cow dung filled the air.

    Down zoning them, code enforcement shenanigans, they mess with Bodean plenty.

    That’s a ‘Priority Development Area’(PDA)
    for a ‘Transit Village’. Too much attention for now. The City will ‘let the dust settle’ for now. However poor Bodean is in their crosshairs.

    In an ICLEI infested town, citizens never build any equity, earn any respect for having been around a long time, for having been of service. It’s just a relationship of governmental conveinience.

    The city should gift them an alternative site, help facilitate Bodean’s move if they’re receptive.

    THIS is why we are where we are.
    Anti-business.
    Anti-Property Rights.

    The City will strategize, this isn’t over.