By Jessica Mathews /

A proposed rezoning for an asphalt plant in Genoa Township was shot down during a near-capacity board meeting on Monday night – marking a big victory for residents.

The meeting was held at the Community Bible Church to accommodate the huge crowd of residents opposed to the project.

Capital Asphalt is looking to construct a new production plant with multiple buildings and structures as well as outdoor storage of materials. The proposed rezoning was for two parcels totaling 16.2-acres at the end of Victory Drive to the north and south of Toddiem Drive. It’s already zoned industrial but the applicants sought a planned industrial development overlay district or PID, which allows for greater flexibility and negotiations.

The Planning Commission earlier recommended approval but the board ultimately voted to deny the rezoning and related items.

There was a lot of cheering and applause as dozens of residents spoke during public comment about environmental concerns, silica dust, truck traffic, several variances needed, decreased property values, noise, smoke stacks “belching” asphalt, smells and other health concerns. Many threatened to move if the project went through. The majority, but not all, were much more respectful than in the past.

The board has been bombarded with hundreds of emails and other correspondence and there were cheers, whistles and applause as dozens spoke during public comment during the roughly three-hour meeting. There was a general consensus that stated benefits didn’t outweigh the risks and losses for the community.

The applicant, Net Lease Associates, was present along with their environmental consultant, engineer and project manager. One representative stated that they understand the NIMBY or “not in my backyard” concept but want to be a good neighbor and in compliance with the best plant possible, assuring that air and pollution controls would meet all state requirements. Representatives assured that stringent regulations would be adhered to and the PID was sought to make better use of the property but cautioned that the southern parcel as currently zoned already allows for an asphalt plant.

Treasurer Robin Hunt stated that the purpose of a PID is for the township to have the ability to negotiate for a high-quality development while allowing flexibility in exchange for community benefit. She said various relief was being sought including an 86-foot stack versus the 30-feet allowed, an increase in above-ground storage for fuel and hazardous waste as well as reductions in landscaping buffer design and lot size – further noting impacts to wetlands.

Hunt said in exchange, the township would get a 60-foot connection road that doesn’t meet requirements. She agreed a municipal water connection and clean-up of the existing site would be beneficial but on those alone, she could not support the PID. Most other board members echoed those comments.

Supervisor Bill Rogers was opposed and explained his reasoning to WHMI, saying they have a very limited area for industrial property and this project is proposed in that area. He said ordinance lists cement and asphalt plants as acceptable uses in that area and he’s just trying to follow the law - which is what they have whether they like it or not - and it’s been designated that way for a long time. Rogers said he’s been out here a long time and there’s been a lot of transition in the township and sometimes that argument can be bothersome – noting technology has also come a long way.

Rogers said the vocal crowd doesn’t necessarily reflect the feelings of the entire township and there were others in support of the project. He added Genoa is also not heavy in industrial and has 306 out of 23,000 acres zoned as such. As for the height comparisons, Rogers noted that cell towers start at 145-feet and water towers are 200-feet plus.

The site is currently occupied by a scrap metal business and as part of the motion for denial, language was included ordering the site to be cleaned up.
It’s unclear what the next steps will be or if the company will pursue any lawsuit.

More information about the proposed project and public comments are available on the township website. That link is provided.

Photo: Capital Asphalt Lansing facility.