It took three trips before the Wright County Board of Commissioners, but for residents of Silver Creek Township, they struck a victory as the county board voted 3-1 at its June 18 meeting to require that an Environmental Assessment Worksheet be completed by the by Valley Paving for the operation of an asphalt plant in the township.
The first meeting wasn’t intended to be a public hearing, so it was laid over untol the June 11 meeting so both sides could make their case concerning the need for an EAW. The June 18 meeting saw its own issue because Commissioner Mike Potter was in Washington D.C. attempting to secure federal funding for road projects in the county, which could have led to a 2-2 vote that would have delayed a decision once again.
Commissioner Charlie Borrell said that the ramifications of requiring an expensive and time-consuming EAW could be long-term and impact future projects because he believes the location in Silver Creek is as ideal at it gets for such a use.
“If we’re going to allow an asphalt plant anywhere in the county, this is as good a spot as there is,” Borrell said. “If we’re going to require an EAW on this, then we would have to require – to be consistent – an EAW every time an asphalt plant would open.”
Board Chair Darek Vetsch countered that unlike a lot of businesses that come into Wright County, a gravel pit/asphalt operation doesn’t increase the tax base – if anything, it could be viewed as a deterrent and the residents are well within their rights to want every possible assurance that the EAW will provide them with the information they want to be sure the plant won’t have harmful effects.
“There are continuous issues that go on with these pits as it is,” Vetsch said. “I think it’s only fair that these people are asking that they do their due diligence so there isn’t harm to the environment. The biggest thing about this is that it has a great harm to the surrounding neighbors to it and the surrounding neighbors are the prevailing landowners. They purchased their homes based on the surroundings, so if we’re going to change their surroundings for them, they should be able to get the environmental information that makes them feel at peace. If the asphalt plant was there first and then the homes came, we wouldn’t be asking for that same argument, but the homes were there first.”
Borrell made a motion to not require the EAW, which died to the lack of a second. He then made a motion to table the matter another week, but that died for the lack of a second as well. The Commissioner Christine Husom made a motion to direct staff to draw up a resolution requiring an EAW for the project, which passed 3-1, with a frustrated Borrell voting against it.
“Every time a citizen group comes up, we’re going to have an EAW,” Borrell said. “(They) all can just come in and private property doesn’t mean anything. Other business rights don’t mean anything. The neighbors run and control everybody’s property. You are all just going to cave to whoever comes in, unless they’re in my district. Maybe then you’ll let it go.”
John Holler covers government and the Wright County Board