A zoning amendment approved at the Ballston Town Board meeting Tuesday night will likely keep out a controversial proposed asphalt mixing plant.
To the delight of a packed house in the Town Hall’s community room, the board passed a resolution that abandons its current industrial zoning, which allows heavy industry, and changes the site of the proposed plant to light industry zoning. The new designation would allow only businesses that conduct most of their business indoors and aren’t considered as disruptive to the surrounding community as heavy industrial operations.
The approved changes were 18 months in the making and were prompted in large part by an asphalt mixing plant proposal announced two years ago, when Dolomite Products Co. requested permission from the town to develop a piece of property in the Curtis Lumber Industrial Park off Route 67, at the town’s eastern border.
Prior to the vote — which was passed by a 4-1 margin,with town Supervisor Patti Southworth voting no — a public hearing was held on the proposed change. Two people, one of them an attorney for Dolomite, spoke in opposition to the change, while the remaining handful of speakers gave impassioned speeches in favor, greeted by loud and prolonged applause from more than 70 people in attendance.
Speakers in favor of the amendment included members of Citizens for a Clean Environment, a group formed in support of the zoning change that collected almost 300 signatures from individuals and businesses in support of the change. Speakers argued heavy industry is contrary to the rural atmosphere that is the focus of the town’s comprehensive plan, so a switch to light industry made sense.
Leading off the public hearing, Jeremy Smith, an attorney for Dolomite, reiterated the company’s position that it would challenge the zoning change in court. Regarding the change, he said, “Spot zoning is unfair, illegal and unconstitutional.”
After the meeting, Smith declined to comment on the board’s decision.
In developing its proposal, the Rochester company spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on a comprehensive environmental study, which was submitted to the Planning Board. Dolomite attorney Stephanie Ferradino previously said the study showed the plant would only need to register for the lowest level of air permit issued by the state.
The study also assessed the plant’s impact on traffic on Route 67 and found nine trucks would enter and exit the facility during peak hours, Ferradino said.
She also maintained noise from the plant would meet town requirements and said there was no threat of water pollution in Ballston Lake from the plant.
Southworth opposed the change because it was unfair to Dolomite and said applicants before the town should be approved or rejected based on their merit.
“This is not about big money. It is about the process,” she said.
Town Board member William Goslin said during the meeting the zoning change brought the town in line with the regulations of surrounding towns and argued that under the current regulations basically anything could be built in the town.
He added that light industry zoning provides more jobs per acre than heavy industry.
Regarding the likelihood of a lawsuit from Dolomite, Town Board member Kelly Stewart said the town had been given good legal advice during the process and the change would hold up against a lawsuit.