An asphalt plant across the street from Myers Elementary School on Candler Road was approved by the Hall County Board of Commissioners Thursday, despite traffic and safety concerns from area residents.
Marietta-based Baldwin Paving Co. wants to build an asphalt drum mix plant, which mixes rock, asphalt cement and other fillers, on the 10-acre site. The site was zoned both heavy industrial and agricultural-residential.
The vote Thursday rezoned the whole property to heavy industrial, plus approved the asphalt plant, which needs commissioners’ approval regardless of zoning.
Commissioner Billy Powell recused himself from the hearing and vote due to a conflict of interest, and all other commissioners voted in favor, with Commissioner Jeff Stowe phoning in. After the vote, two marshals cleared the room as residents confronted commissioners.
The Hall County Planning Commission had recommended denial of the request on Feb. 18.
Ryan Teague, the chief legal officer for Baldwin Paving, said he understood residents’ concerns about Roy Parks Road’s ability to handle large trucks and the environmental and health effects of the plant being near a school. He said emissions are less of a concern with asphalt plants than employees’ interactions with materials, which are regulated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Commissioners approved the plant under the condition that trucks not access the property from Roy Parks Road. Trucks also will not be allowed to enter or leave the property during Myers Elementary’s arrival and dismissal times.
One area resident, Chris Riley of North Hall, spoke in favor of the plant. He vouched for Teague’s work.
“I know that he will adhere to the stipulations moving forward as you all see fit,” Riley told commissioners.
Both Teague and Riley have ties to Gov. Nathan Deal’s administration. Teague was Deal’s executive counsel for more than six years. Riley was Deal’s chief of staff.
But area residents emphasized Thursday that they felt the plant would compromise the safety of area residents and students at Myers.
Adam Roberts presented a photo of a truck turning onto Roy Parks Road, blocking both lanes. He said the road was not equipped for large trucks. He also was worried the plant could emit odor or noise, disturbing others in the area.
While residents were worried about traffic, many got emotional when asking commissioners to consider how the plant would affect children at Myers.
“Please, please, please do not forget about the kids at Myers Elementary School,” Roberts said. “They do not need this across from their school, imploding traffic and causing health hazards.”
Dr. David Cohen also spoke against the plant, saying that as a physician, he felt obligated to take a stand.
“Children have a developing nervous system. These chemicals are 100 percent toxic to the nervous system,” he said.
Abby Freeman said she lives in the Myers school district and her daughter would likely one day attend Myers. Not if the plant is built, though — she said she would rather send her child to private school than take the risk.
Freeman referred to the common phrase “Not In My Backyard,” the idea that while facilities like asphalt plants are needed, no one wants to live near them. She said some people may not have the means to stand up against what they oppose due to a lack of financial resources or a language barrier.
“I ask that the commission say no on behalf of every child at Myers,” she said.
Commissioner Shelly Echols, whose district includes the property, said after the meeting that she met with Teague before the meeting Thursday because he requested to meet. She said she did not receive a meeting request from residents but usually meets with people who ask.
Echols also said that while she was aware of Riley and Teague’s ties to Deal, she does not know either well.
It was a tough decision, Echols said.
“There are very few areas in Hall County that are zoned for heavy industrial,” she said. “…I did my best to protect Roy Parks Road by not allowing trucks, by not allowing them to use that driveway.”
Marietta-based C.W. Matthews Contracting Co. operates another asphalt plant in the area.