By Jessica Mathews /

The applicants behind a proposed asphalt plant in Tyrone Township failed to show for a review before the Planning Commission Tuesday night.

The virtual meeting had at least 76 participants – with the majority being residents opposed to the project that would be located on 124 acres north of Center Road and west of Old US-23. They have formed a group called Residents for Community Preservation to rally against the plan. Review letters from an independent planning firm for three applications - two rezonings and a special land use - were before the Commission for discussion, with the latter of the two contingent on the rezoning requests being granted. Applicant John Sawyer of Capital Asphalt has supported rezoning of the two parcels from farming residential to M2, Heavy Industrial for the project.

According to the analysis from the planning firm, the applications had "significant missing information" needed for the Commission to make any informed decision. As submitted, planners recommended denial. The Commission will be requesting various items for the applicants to address, in addition to what was lacking in the applications. Some include an emergency management plan, an environmental impact study, reviews from police and fire departments, and a potential study on how surrounding property values could be impacted. It was noted that the site plan should address all of the deficiencies outlined in the review.

No project representatives attended the meeting. It was noted that the applicants have not had any contact with the township since an initial meeting and the recent planner review letters have been provided to them.

While it was agreed the Commission has an obligation to notify the applicants and give them time to respond, Commissioner Steve Krause commented it’s been two months and they haven’t heard anything and he wants to move forward. Many residents have also voiced concerns about the impact on property values, which resonated with Krause. Krause said he felt that was probably the most important thing in the application and they need to get information. He said commissioners and board members have all received hundreds of emails from people extremely concerned about the value of their property, which he thinks can be quantified and should be looked at specifically.

It was stated that studies of that kind really aren’t common but the Commission could have conversations with the applicant and come up with something. The township attorney said he hasn’t seen it done before but the applicant could possibly utilize a realtor or appraiser or someone else with expertise in the field.

The township doesn’t have its own municipal water supply or fire department. Some residents, including Amy Lazar, raised concerns and questions about whether local fire departments were equipped to handle fires at an asphalt plant. While researching, she said she was disturbed to learn how common these types of fires are, taking hours to get under control while residents are either evacuated or told to stay in their homes due to chemicals being released into the air. She said that is then followed by extensive clean-up efforts to keep the chemicals and foam from getting into the groundwater.

Many residents also thanked commissioners for being so open and actually listening and being so in-depth with the review. Lee Burton is chair of the Crossroads Group of the Sierra Club and commented that he appreciates how open and receptive the commission has been to citizens in the community – which was refreshing to see and not always the case. He said at times with meetings, it’s obvious there isn’t any room for any discussion but the Commission is building a level of trust and that’s important.

The Commission took no action following the reviews but discussed the possibility of when to hold required public hearings. Since this was the first official review and first specific request for additional information, the consensus was to provide that and see if any contact is made. If there’s no communication on the specific requests from the Commission, then it is possible public hearings will just be scheduled for a May meeting.

The detailed planner review letters can be viewed on the township website. That link is provided.