Hearing on asphalt processing plant in Wilton lasts for three hours, draws large crowd

WILTON – A proposal to construct an asphalt processing plant on Lot B10 on Quinn Drive off Route 31 north drew about 130 people to a Zoning Board of Adjustment hearing on Oct. 23. The hearing, held in the high school cafeteria, lasted over three hours. While many people simply asked questions, no one spoke in favor of the plan.

Because of the number of expected speakers, the board voted to hold the deliberative part of the hearing on Wednesday, Oct.30, 7:30 p.m. At first they said they would take no more testimony but a request by several residents for “some kind of visual showing the place and height,” people who can see it from their homes will be allowed to testify. The visual will probably be a balloon.

Because the plant was deemed to have “regional impact,” the abutting towns of Lyndeborough and Temple sent members of their conservation commissions to state those towns’ concerns, Sharon Akers for Lyndeborough and Lincoln Geiger for Temple. Those concerns included air and water quality, increased truck traffic, containment of hazardous materials, noise, fire protection capabilities, (Lyndeborough as the closest department would be a first responder), any effect on Goss Park and property values.

In a letter, the Wilton Fire Department said they have the needed capability and no particular concerns. Zoning Board Chairman Neil Faiman said that letter was one of about two dozen submitted prior to the hearing.

Faiman set strict rules for the evening. The hearing was in response to a request from Quinn Brothers LLC, of Amherst for a variance from the district’s height limit of 45 feet in order to construct an asphalt batch plant at 68 feet and a storage silo at 72 feet. All questions and comments had to pertain to that request.

“How people feel about something is not relevant to the facts being considered,” he said, noting “just because you don’t like something, it isn’t relevant,” and the board can’t consider it.. “Variances apply to the conditions of a certain piece of property and Zoning Board must follow the rules established by the legislature.”

He did relent at the close of the meeting and allow general comments.

The applicants were represented by their attorney William Keefe.

He said Lot B 10 contains 65 acres located on the Lyndeborough town line in an industrial zone and contains a stone quarry which pre-dates zoning. The plan presented was approved by the zoning board in 1990 using a plan submitted to the planning board in 1988. He said the plant would “look like the BROX plant on Caldwell Drive in Amherst built about 30 years ago.”

The 45 foot limit was imposed, Keefe said, as far as he could determine because that was the limit of the town’s fire truck. They did not get a ladder truck until 1991 and the present truck can reach over 100 feet.

The plan has already been approved once, he added, but approval lapses after two years. “There have been no substantial changes in the neighborhood.” The Quinns own most of the surrounding property, and “we have to take into account the owner’s right to use his property. Asphalt is a logical extension” of the quarrying currently being done.” He also noted the use of asphalt by the town’s highway department in paving over two miles of road this year.

Board members asked about materials being brought in by truck and use of the railroad. The railroad can’t be used because of the weight and the condition of the track in Milford. They also asked about smell, the dispersion of air pollutants, fire department response time, and proximity to the aquifer. It would not be located on the aquifer.

Although Lyndeborough residents on Cram Hill Road are the closest houses, they are not actual abutters. Several of them expressed concerns about noise, smell and increased traffic.

Asked if the company could use shorter silos, Jim Quinn said no, they are used to fill trucks and need the height.

ZBA hearings normally end at 10:30. At 10 p.m., Faiman opened the hearing to general comments which lasted another hour and a half.

Resident Chris Balch said, “The EPA’s two-mile fume radius includes two schools, the library, two hundred houses and Garwin Falls. The neighborhood now fits the Master Plan, the asphalt plant does not. Over ten chemicals have been identified by the EPA. We know a lot more about the environment now than we did in 1990.”

The board was thanked for their work but was asked “to keep the character of the town and enforce the rules.”