County board gives thumbs down to asphalt plant plans

The Niagara County planning board listens to a discussion about the plans for an asphalt plant on Witmer Road in the Town of Niagara Monday afternoon. The board voted not to approve the plans for the plant, which were presented by AL Asphalt. See the video online of the discussion between board members and proposed plant owner Roseanne DiPizio, at www.niagara-gazette.com.

SANBORN — The proposal to build an asphalt plant adjacent to Niagara University was given a thumbs down Monday afternoon by a unanimous vote of the Niagara County Planning Board.

The board, in a session open to the public via Zoom, spent about an hour with AL Asphalt's owner, Roseanne DiPizio, who was speaking by cell phone while traveling.  Both sides were challenged by sound issues throughout the conversation, with DiPizio's connection breaking up often and DiPizio often being unable to hear board questions and comments. 

The planning board was given the proposal to consider after the Town of Niagara Town Board first approved and then later rescinded their approval for the asphalt plant after it was determined that the Niagara County planning board should have been presented the proposal first, due to an agreement between the town and adjacent municipalities regarding projects that share a border.

The plant proposal by AL Asphalt at 4660 Witmer Road, had been approved by the Town of Niagara Board in July until the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation advertised an open comment period seeking public opinion about the project.

The AL Asphalt application noted the plant would hire six or seven employees and produce about 150,000 tons of hot asphalt from April to November, and further noted a plan to keep carbon monoxide emission below 100 tons a year and emission of volatile organic compounds below l50 tons a year.

A wave of public protest against the application arose. 

The plans drew passionate opposition from Niagara University and proclamations against the project from the Town of Lewiston, the Village of Lewiston, the City of Niagara Falls and the Niagara Falls Board of Education. Nearly 2,500 people signed an online petition against the proposed plant.

During the public outcry, information came to light that Niagara town board members had been misinformed about the need for the project to go to the planning board. In April, board members voted to rescind their approval of the plant and send the plan to the Niagara County Planning Board for further consideration. 

In addition, early this month, the DEC rescinded their "negative declaration" that the plant would have minimal environmental impact and put the status of the project on hold pending further review by the town, Niagara County, and the DEC.

At Monday's planning board meeting, held at the Niagara County's Center for Economic Development, board member Walter Garrow led the questioning of DiPizio, as the board's unofficial expert on environmental safety.  Garrow has a Bachelors's Degree in Chemistry, an MBA, as well as four prestigious, board-certified, environmental safety certifications including Associate Safety Professional, Certified Hazardous Materials Manager, Certified Industrial Hygienist, and Certified Safety Professional.

Garrow questioned DiPizio on a variety of topics including fire safety, fugitive emissions, processing procedures, proper handling of contaminated soils, engineering controls on noise and more, including the plant's location on about 600 feet from NU dormitories. 

DiPizio said her proposals had gone through all the appropriate procedures and approvals and that her firm was taking all the precautions that other asphalts plants in the region have taken, including a plant in the Town of Niagara. "We went through everything that any other prudent asphalt manufacturer would have to go through," she said.  "I appreciate your concern, however, they have been vetted out in many other asphalt manufacturing facilities."

She also said she had proposed moving the plant to a second site at 3535 Hyde Park Blvd., in the Town of Niagara, but no action was taken on that comment. 

Walt advised the planning board to decline their approval of the Witmer Road plant, and made a motion to reject the plan on three points, including his concerns that zoning codes do not allow for the plant to be built at the site; as well as a lack of engineering to prevent chemical and physical agents from going off the property; and the lack of plans or facilities or materials in case of fire. 

The board voted unanimously to reject the plan. It is uncertain whether the plan, without the county planning board's approval, will go back to the Town of Niagara board.

Town of Niagara Supervisor Lee Wallace said the town board is unlikely to consider the planning board's action at its next meeting on May 25 as the agenda is already too full. If the board is going to consider any further action, it would have to take place at the June 15 town board meeting, he said.

VIDEO ONLINE

• To see the Niagara County Planning Board's discussion regarding the asphalt plant on 4660 Witmer Road in the town of Niagara, visit www.niagara-gazette.com.

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