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Santa Rosa affirms approval of asphalt plant silos

Santa Rosa paved the way for an asphalt plant near downtown to add three 82-foot-high storage silos despite neighbors' concerns over health, odor, noise and land-use issues.

The Santa Rosa City Council on Tuesday overturned a lower board's decision to reject the BoDean Co.'s plans for the new silos, which would soar 27 feet above the typical building height for the area.

The city's Design Review Board had problems with the project because members felt the visual impacts from the new silos was incompatible with the city's plans to phase out the plant's industrial use in favor of higher density housing around a future train station.

But the council majority, on a 4-2 vote, approved the company's appeal, highlighting what it said were environmental benefits from the project, including lower energy use and reduced fumes and greenhouse-gas emissions.

"The environmental improvements that this project will provide outweigh any of the perceived negatives," Councilman Scott Bartley said.

Neighbor after neighbor, however, urged the council to consider the impacts on the people who live immediately around the Maxwell Court plant, which according to one resident is unique in the Bay Area for being located next to a residential area.

"I'm actually astonished, astounded, amazed that the expansion plans have gone this far," said Terri Noll, who lives near Railroad Square.

She said the "really stinky, horrible" smells from the plant often force her to close her windows on hot nights. She said she worries that the city is "shooting itself in the foot" by approving something that is inconsistent with other goals, such as bringing in more tourists.

"Because if I can smell it, the convention center can smell it and all those restaurants on Fourth Street," Noll said.

Critics have said the silos would expand the "legal non-conforming use" of the site. But BoDean officials have insisted the $1.5 million project will not result in an increase in production capacity.

They call the new silos little more than equipment that stores the asphalt once it is made, creating production efficiencies and energy savings.

Neighborhood activist Allen Thomas said the approval doesn't mean the project will go forward. A group called Citizens for Safe Neighborhoods has sued in Sonoma County Superior Court to block the project and force the city to perform additional environmental review. The group will be asking the court to prevent construction until the legal issues are resolved.

"These silos aren't going up next week," Thomas said.

You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or kevin. mccallum@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @citybeater.

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