Concerns rise as decision for potential asphalt plant in East Grand Forks nears
A public hearing regarding the proposed asphalt plant will be held at noon Thursday, April 14, during the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting.
EAST GRAND FORKS – Health hazards, traffic impacts and diminishing property values are among the concerns residents have about a proposed asphalt plant that could be built on the edge of East Grand Forks.
The plant would be owned and operated by RJ Zavoral & Sons, a local earth moving and construction services company. The land adjacent to the city's border in Huntsville Township, on which the plant would be built, already has been annexed into the city.
The company has applied for a special use permit to construct and operate the asphalt plant on the annexed land.
The project will be discussed at a meeting of the Planning and Zoning Commission at noon Thursday, April 14. The meeting will be held at East Grand Forks' City Hall.
East Grand Forks resident Jon Roberts said he is concerned about the chemicals used in asphalt and the health hazards he says they can cause. The location of the plant is not only close to Roberts' home and others, but also to schools in the area — specifically South Point Elementary and Central Middle Schools.
With his concerns about the chemicals, Roberts also is worried about how the plant will be regulated.
City Planner Nancy Ellis said hot mix asphalt plants in the state are regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, two agencies upon which the city would rely to provide monitoring and guidelines for the plant.
“That’s not something a City Council would be able to determine. So we will rely on those standards that the EPA and the MPCA assess and that they have to follow,” Ellis said.
Another concern for Roberts: Property values in the immediate area. Roberts believes that if the plant is built, his property's value could drop by as much as 54%.
The increase in traffic and the hours and days the plant would operate also are concerns, Roberts told the Herald.
Ellis said traffic from the plant would be off of County Road 17 and Highway 2 and has been reviewed by the city and engineers who are in charge of those roads.
“Right now, they’re proposing at their peak, when the plant would be running in full operation, a high of 30 trucks an hour, which means you would see a truck every two minutes,” Ellis said. “Which isn’t out of the ordinary for that location.”
Ellis said truck traffic would be to the north of commercial businesses and wouldn't run through residential areas.
RJ Zavoral & Sons has provided a supplemental information packet addressing the concerns. The packet will be referenced during the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting at noon Thursday.
Within the packet, RJ Zavoral & Sons compiled data from residential property located within one mile of an existing plant in Grand Forks to address nearby residents' property value concerns. The packet also includes information on the air, wind, noise, odor and water regulations for the plant.
Throughout the rest of the packet, RJ Zavoral & Sons lists the intended facility operations and schedule. According to the packet, the company would utilize the site to store construction materials and equipment.
The operations of the facility would fluctuate throughout the year.
This isn’t the first time RJ Zavoral & Sons has attempted to build a similar facility. Last year, a proposal for a temporary asphalt plant about a mile outside of East Grand Forks was rejected by Polk County planners and officials. Among the concerns then were the location and supposed impact on neighbors, but also whether odors from the plant would affect beans processed at a nearby facility.
Roberts said residents don’t have anything against the company, but don’t want the plant being built near city limits.
“Everybody knows what Zavoral and Sons have done for the city of East Grand Forks — they have donated a lot of money, they’re good people,” Roberts said. “We’re not against them, we’re against the fact that they can put this plant wherever they want and they decide to do it inside city limits.”
Roberts said residents are spreading awareness on the asphalt plant with others. A Facebook group called “EGF Residents Against Asphalt Plant in City Limits” has been created to continue raising awareness.
“I talked to a guy the other day that will be living within a half mile of this asphalt plant and he had no idea that they wanted to do this,” Roberts said.
Eliis said when notifying nearby residents of the public hearings for the plant, notifications are sent to anyone within 350 feet of the proposed lot. However, Ellis said more residents were added to the mailing list for the annexation of the land and the same mailing list has been used for the special use permit.
While bad weather may impact Thursday's scheduled meeting, Ellis said she would still like for a public hearing to be held to give residents the opportunity to speak.
From there, the project will be discussed at the April 19 City Council meeting, again during a public hearing. Ultimately, the decision will be up to the City Council.
Roberts said the decision should be up to the residents, pointing out that one of the alternatives for residents is to start a petition to bring it to a citywide vote.
“If they bring it to a vote and we end up losing or Zavorals win, however you want to look at it, at least the people [would have] got the chance to say something,” Roberts said. “Right now, they don’t have that.”