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Santa Rosa’s approval of new asphalt plant silos allowed, judge likely to rule


Santa Rosa acted properly in letting an asphalt plant add three new 82-foot-high silos without a full environmental review, a judge has tentatively ruled.

The city’s decision to exempt the BoDean company from performing an environmental impact report for its project was justified because the upgrades will not increase the plant’s production capacity, merely its storage capacity, Judge Elliot Daum wrote in his tentative ruling released Thursday.

“Adding some storage space to a facility that already exists and which already has both the physical ability and permitted allowance to produce more than the silos can hold, logically and reasonably could fall within the scope of an alteration of ‘existing facilities,’” Daum wrote.

Workers at the Bodean Company work around the three new 82-foot-high silos constructed at their site along Maxwell Drive in Santa Rosa on Friday, Sept. 13, 2013. (Conner Jay / The Press Democrat)

Workers at the Bodean Company work around the three new 82-foot-high silos constructed at their site along Maxwell Drive in Santa Rosa on Friday, Sept. 13, 2013. (Conner Jay / The Press Democrat)

State environmental law exempts certain projects from full environmental review if they involve “negligible or no expansion of use” or the “replacement or reconstruction of existing structures and facilities.”

The city cited both exemptions when in 2012 it granted BoDean a permit to install the three silos, each of which can hold 280 tons of hot asphalt, and related conveyor belts and other machinery.

The company said the $1.5 million project would help it save money and energy and reduce emissions and other impacts to the neighbors by allowing it make larger batches of asphalt, thereby reducing how often the plant had to be turned on and off.

But neighbors called the upgrades an expansion of operations that would allow the plant to produce and deliver more asphalt, thereby likely increasing the odors, dust and traffic they contend with today.

They also argued an exemption shouldn’t be granted because the West End plant operated in the “unusual circumstance” of being an industrial operation in an area that wouldn’t normally permit such a use.

The judge found that the city was right to grant the first exemption in cases of “negligible or no expansion of use.” But he was less swayed by the second exemption, ruling that the new silos weren’t a “replacement or reconstruction of existing structures and facilities” because the old silo will remain in place.

On Friday morning, Rachel Mansfield-Howlett, the attorney for the group called Citizens for Safe Neighborhoods, argued that the city relied on both exemptions in granting the permit. But Daum said he was “confused” by that claim.

Assistant City Attorney Molly Dillon said she believed both exemptions apply, but only one is necessary under the California Environmental Quality Act. She said the city “did a very full and complete job” in reviewing the project before granting the exemption.

Daum said he would consider the matter further and issue a ruling at a later date.

(You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or kevin.mccallum@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @citybeater.)

4 Responses to “Santa Rosa’s approval of new asphalt plant silos allowed, judge likely to rule”

  1. John Brown says:

    this mess and lawsuit were the work of one couple who decided that they did not want the plant improvements. These two people put themselves out as representing the entire West End. Nothing could be further from the truth. Their actions are giving this neighborhood a bad reputation with the city. they need to stop!

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  2. Terry says:

    So called Citizens groups are getting out of hand. Lucas Films, BoDean, SAY…no matter what you do, especially if you are a business, neighborhood groups are becoming more and more litigious and inclined to sue. I am finding that these groups are often led by ego driven leaders who feel if their opinions are not headed by city leaders then it is off to court we go costing us millions in wasted money and energy better spent on improving our neighborhoods.

    This seems to be the case here where the judge is not buying what the neighborhood bully is selling.

    Maybe working together with the company in finding common ground would be more effective, but then again maybe it wouldn’t be as fun or make as much money for the lawyers.

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  3. John Bly says:

    I applaud Judge Daum’s tentative ruling. Judge Daum got it right when he noted the plant always had the capacity to produce more than it was producing, so the new silos did not act to increase the capacity. I applaud the owners and the City for making the process less intrusive on the neighbors than before the change in storage was permitted and built.

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  4. Steveguy says:

    I have gone to that area for decades. Riley Street art supply, the old office supply store, even the breakfast joint next door, and other businesses. I have never smelled bad things there.

    We need a better system than approve and sue. It is getting very old and costly for all involved, especially the job creators and taxpayers as this is all ‘free money’ to the system.

    They want a crushed gravel SMART rail system, yet we can’t have a company crushing rock from a decent quarry ?

    Annadel Park was a quarry. Same as other spots. Was Annadel ruined by being a quarry, or a benefit ? I say benefit.

    Oh Lordy ( And am soo glad, happy, grateful and complimentary for the Press Democrat to leave this page off of the pay site. I would wish the same for the Editorials.) Ya, I am a cheapskate, but I do drop quarters into the machine at times. )

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