Planning commission meetings for just about any city are usually sparsely attended by the public, but that wasn’t the case Monday night in North Branch.
On the docket for the commission to consider was a conditional use permit by Valley Paving, an asphalt-producing business with a site in Lent Township.
Dozens of people showed up for the public discussion on the proposal.
The commission unanimously decided to deny the request for the permit.
Valley Paving had approached the city about relocating its site, which is used for the storage of aggregate material and the production of asphalt, to 7.2 acres of land owned by resident Phil Carlson along County Road 30, north of 362nd Street.
Valley Paving currently has an interim use permit at its Lent location, but that permit is soon to expire, which is why the company was looking to move the site to North Branch.
After the meeting, a representative from Valley Paving sent an e-mail to Nate Sondrol, North Branch’s GIS specialist, stating the business no longer wants to pursue the County Road 30 site.
Prior to the planning commission’s decision to deny the permit request, residents who live near the proposed site made a steady processional to the podium so they could voice their concerns about Valley Paving’s plans.
“We have many unanswered questions and serious concerns,” Clyde Ceroll said.
Connie Ramberg said she was concerned about the increased traffic that would have resulted from Valley Paving setting up shop on County Road 30.
Sondrol said before the discussion that about 100 trucks a day would have been visiting the site if it had become operational.
Brent Carron, vice president of Valley Paving, later explained that the amount of hauling mentioned by Sondrol would have only taken place during a fraction of the year.
He said trucks were hauling material to and from the Lent Township site 33 days last year.
Numerous residents expressed concerns about pollutants they said would have emanated from the site.
“I think it’s important to consider the pollution that will be created by the making of asphalt,” Melanie Ceroll said. “Asphalt plants are sources of air pollution.”
Carron addressed that concern, too.
He noted that the business has two permits from the Minnesota Pollution Control agency to operate, and the Lent site is far below the pollution level permitted by the MPCA.
“They give us a limit of how many emissions we can have per year,” Carron said. “We get up to 50 tons of emissions per year per permit. For 2008-2009, the highest number we had was 6.5 tons.”
He noted the concerns of the residents, but said he has been in the asphalt business for 15 years and his father has 45 years of experience with the trade and neither one of them has suffered any adverse health effects.
Planning commission members didn’t address whether or not they thought having asphalt storage and production at the County Road 30 site would lead to undue pollution in North Branch when coming to the decision to deny the request.
Instead, members agreed that an asphalt operation at the site doesn’t fit with the city’s comprehensive plan.
“I think there is a problem with our zoning,” Commission Chairman John Philipsen said. “We identify manufacturing without identifying the type of manufacturing. (The proposed site) does not meet the character and intent of the surrounding community.”