The 280-person community of Louviers has banded together to protest the possible construction of a new asphalt plant about half a mile from their homes, an issue that will be decided by the three Douglas County commissioners at their Oct. 22 meeting.
An online petition opposing the project has been signed by nearly 3,000 people, including by some from other parts of the county and state, said Rob Howard, who created the online petition.
“I think people realize even though this may not be their home, it shouldn't be next to anyone's home,” Howard said.
Louviers is an unincorporated comunity about four miles south of Highlands Ranch off U.S. 85.
About 50 people spoke out against the proposed asphalt batch plant at a Sept. 9 Douglas County Planning Commission meeting, citing concerns about pollution, traffic, noise and odors. The plant would lie east of Louviers on Airport Road, west of U.S. 85.
The 30-employee plant would operate from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. and, combined with the adjacent concrete factory owned by the same company, would have up to 1,170 vehicle trips per day, said Chief Planner Dan Avery. The company, Brannan Sand and Gravel, also requests permission for the asphalt plant to remain open for up to 24 hours when working on large public projects, he said.
“For decades, communities like Douglas County have fought to keep loud, toxic and dangerous asphalt plants away from residential areas,” Howard said in the meeting.
Other residents complained that they already have issues with Brannan's nearby concrete plant. Neighbors of the plant described problems with traffic, noise and dust coming from the property.
Alex Schatz, the project manager from Brannan, had the opportunity to give a presentation about the project and clarify how complaints of noise and odor would be handled.
Other Brannan employees and specialists also spoke at the meeting, explaining that many of the concerns are just misconceptions about asphalt plants.
“It is safe,” said Dennis Hunt, who works for the plant construction company. “It will not increase pollution.”
In a later interview, Schatz said health risks associated with asphalt plants are mitigated and sometimes non-existent and that there would be no detrimental impact on water whatsoever.
Howard was not as convinced.
“It's something that's a lot easier to say when it's not your backyard,” he said.
The planning commission, which operates as solely an advisory board, unanimously voted to deny the project.
“We don't feel like there was enough outreach,” Planning Commissioner Clarence Hughes said.
The petition, which had about 900 signatures at the time of the vote, had a large impact on planning commissioners, who didn't realize there was so much push-back from the community before the meeting, Planning Commissioner Gary Godden said.
“That affects our thinking. It certainly affects how we view the project,” he said.
While the project has been considered by the county for about a year, the public wasn't made aware until of it until September, Howard said. Notices were put up and a public meeting was held a few days before the planning commission vote.
Schatz says that's just a result of unfortunate timing and logistical difficulties. The company wasn't aware when the planning commission would be voting until a few weeks ahead of time, he said. They didn't plan an outreach meeting any sooner because they “wanted to understand what the county needed” beforehand, he said.
Planning commissioners recommended that the company work on their relationship with the public.
“If it appears to us that citizens haven't had an opportunity to get a crystallizing picture of exactly what it is you're trying to do, that's really not right to them,” Hughes said.
Both Schatz and Howard have expressed an interest in negotiating ways to deal with concerns around the plant.
“Everyone wants to find a way that this property can be used in a way that benefits the company and benefits the county,” Howard said. “I think it's going to be challenging for the company to build an asphalt plant that doesn't produce noise and odor and traffic that harms the community.”
Schatz and Howard have also discussed having more public meetings with residents to discuss the project prior to the Oct. 22 decision by the county commissioners.
“Our intent moving forward is to address everything that we can,” Schatz said.
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