Regional impact hearing of proposed Wilton asphalt plant draws more than 100 people

  • More than 100 residents turned out to speak about a proposed asphalt plant in Wilton during a public hearing at the WLC Middle/High School on Wednesday. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • More than 100 residents turned out to speak about a proposed asphalt plant in Wilton during a public hearing at the WLC Middle/High School on Wednesday. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • Residents raised questions of emissions, property values and sight, smell and noise impacts during a public hearing on the batch plant Wednesday. Staff photo by Ashley Saari

  • More than 100 residents turned out to speak about a proposed asphalt plant in Wilton during a public hearing at the WLC Middle/High School on Wednesday. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • More than 100 residents turned out to speak about a proposed asphalt plant in Wilton during a public hearing at the WLC Middle/High School on Wednesday. Staff photo by Ashley Saari

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 10/24/2019 4:57:19 PM

More than 100 people packed the Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative Middle/High School cafeteria on Wednesday to air concerns about a proposed asphalt batch plant on Quinn Drive in Wilton.

Jim Quinn, who is proposing the plant, has applied for a variance of the height of the structure, with both the proposed batch plant and storage silo exceeding the 45-foot height limit in the town’s industrial district. 

The Wilton Zoning Board of Adjustment began hearing testimony on the asphalt plant earlier this summer, but re-started the proceedings on Wednesday after ruling the matter had a potential regional impact. For the purposes of the board’s deliberation, only information presented at Wednesday’s hearing and any upcoming hearings will be considered. 

Zoning Board Chair Neil Faiman opened the hearing by stressing the board would only be considering testimony regarding the height of the plant and silo, noting that whether the plant itself was appropriate for Wilton was a matter for the Planning Board to decide in its site plan review of the project. 

Several residents pushed back against that statement, saying that in order for the board to grant a variance, applicants had to prove issues such as granting the variance wouldn’t have a negative impact on property values. Faiman again emphasized that those markers only had to be proven as it related to the actual variance requested – the height, not the plant itself, which he said the board must consider as an allowable use for the purposes of weighing whether or not to grant the variance.

Bill Keefe, the attorney representing the Quinns, presented the project, told the board the asphalt plant will be on about two acres of about 65 acres of land owned by the Quinns. It is bracketed by the Quinn’s stone quarry, another quarry and the railroad. 

Keefe said the silo, which is proposed to be 72 feet tall, should not be visible from Route 31. He said it is located far from surrounding properties, and is within the reach of Wilton’s current fire equipment. Keefe also said the plant is far enough from other properties that it’s not expected any abutters would be impacted by noise, and while the silo would not be completely shielded from all properties, those who could see it would only be able to from a long distance.

Quinn noted the quarry has been struggling to find a market for the stone it produces, and the state’s major producers of asphalt have their own supplies.

“We need more of a market, and that’s why we’re here,” Quinn said.

The plant proposed is similar in design to an asphalt plant operated by Brox Industries on Caldwell Drive in Amherst. When asked if he needed to have the height proposed, Quinn said most designs for asphalt plants required similar heights, and they provided “some order of efficiency” to produce large batches of asphalt. 

Aiyana Vergo of Hearthstone Drive in Wilton questioned what impact the height of the plant and its emission stacks would have on the disbursement of its emissions.

Dr. Laura Green, a toxicology expert employed by Quinn Properties, responded to the question, saying that for dispersal, taller stacks were better. The majority of the emissions from the plant would be nitrogen, water, carbon dioxide and oxygen. Green said the emission from such plants are well known and have been studied extensively, and that if the plant produced pollutants that exceeded federal or state air quality standard, it would be a “non-starter” to produce asphalt there.

Several residents who live on land above the quarry said they worried about the visual impact of the silo from their property. 

“At [72] feet of height, I’m going to be staring at that plant, there’s no doubt about it,” said Jack Slater of Cram Hill Road.

“My house is looking directly at the tower. I think it would have a significant impact on my property value,” said Bob Silva of Barrett Hill Road.

One person asked if the Quinns would be willing to fly a balloon at 72 feet at the location of the proposed silo, so neighbors could gauge how much of an impact it would have, and Faiman said that was a reasonable request.

Originally, the board proposed holding a deliberative meeting next week to review the case and come to a final decision, but have decided to continue the hearing to its next regular meeting on Nov. 12 at 7:30 p.m., to allow time for a balloon test to be scheduled. At the Nov. 12 meeting, Faiman said the board would have a comment period to allow residents to report what they observed during the balloon test, before likely entering deliberations. A location for the Nov. 12 meeting has not yet been confirmed.

 

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT. 


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