WELLINGTON — Planning commissioners in Wellington voted 6-1 on Monday night to approve the site plan for a 35-acre asphalt mixing plant on the town’s north side, the last approval that developers need before applying for a building permit.
Construction could begin next year, and the plant could be operational by the middle of 2025, its developers said.
The site is located at 3548 E. Larimer County Road 66, between North County Roads 7 and 9, in an area that has been zoned industrial for more than two decades.
Monday’s vote followed a contentious five-hour hearing Monday night — including more than two hours of presentations in support of the project by representatives of Windsor-based Connell Resources Inc., which will own and operate the plant, and public comments by nearly two dozen area residents, all but five of whom opposed locating the plant so close to parks and neighborhoods.
Connell Resources intends to move asphalt operations to Wellington after closing its current plant southeast of the intersection of Interstate 25 and Harmony Road in Timnath. An affiliated company, Connell LLC, plans to redevelop that site as part of the proposed 240-acre Ladera residential and commercial district.
Part of the Ladera plan includes a Topgolf golf and entertainment center that would feature 156-foot-tall netting. Opponents of locating Topgolf at a site within Ladera that is close to the Cache la Poudre River said the nets and poles would constitute a hazard to wildlife, and a citizens’ group launched a successful petition drive to submit their proposed ban on permanent fences 65 feet or taller to a public vote. That issue will go before Timnath voters June 27, and its passage would likely end Topgolf’s plans to locate in Timnath.
Some residents who spoke against Connell Resources’ asphalt plant in Wellington on Monday night hinted at similar citizen-led action they could take to try to stop it. One, Erin Ramler, warned commissioners and Connell Resources representatives not to “underestimate the resolve of the concerned citizens of this community. We have legal recourse and are prepared to see this legal battle through.” The decision also could be appealed in Larimer County District Court.
Others urged Connell Resources to locate the plant — which mixes asphalt for use on roads and highways — in a more sparsely populated area instead of so near the Buffalo Creek subdivision, and cited studies showing that similar asphalt batch plants produce toxic emissions that create health risks in the surrounding area. Contending that “toxics do exist” at such plants, planning commissioner Lowrey Moyer eventually would cast the lone vote against the site plan.
Opponents’ claims of toxic hazards earned pushback from an attorney representing Connell Resources. Contending that an asphalt plant’s emissions were no higher than those emitted by gasoline stations and fast-food restaurants, Carolynne C. White of the Denver law firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck said those businesses should be required to follow the same setbacks that opponents were demanding — which they’re not. She also chided opponents for applying “Google research on the internet” as opposed to the “credentialed experts” brought in by the developers.
Connell Resources representatives and Leah Schneider, a planner with the Larimer County Health Department, cited environmental studies that showed emissions of such toxins as toluene and benzene were far below levels set by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
John Warren, president of Connell Resources, said the EPA removed asphalt plants from its list of major sources of air pollution as designated by the Clean Air Act. He said most of what is emitted from the plants’ stacks is “steam coming off the natural gas used to heat aggregates,” and that the plant generates noise comparable to a home kitchen’s refrigerator.
Still, Warren and town planning director Cody Bird pointed out numerous steps that Connell Resources and the town’s Board of Adjustment had agreed to to minimize the plant’s impact on the surrounding area:
- Connell Resources was granted a variance to reduce the required 1,000-foot separation setback from neighborhoods to 800 feet, but the town required construction of a 15-foot earthen berm and landscaping on the west side.
- The developer won a variance for a 70-foot silo structure, exceeding the town’s height limit of 45 feet in industrial zones, but agreed that the variance would apply only to the silo and that no signage would be displayed on it.
- The town agreed that the plant could generate about 256 truck trips per day, but that the trucks would have to enter and exit the facility to the north, entering I-25 at the Owl Canyon Road exit, instead of traveling through populated areas of the town, and that they could not use noisy “jake brakes.”
- The plant must use non-potable water for all uses except drinking and restrooms.
Except in rare circumstances, the developers said, the plant would not be in operation at night. Hours of operation would be from 7 a.m. to 5 or 6 p.m. from April through November.
About 35 employees will work at the plant, and Connell Resources pointed out in documents submitted to the town that of the family-owned company’s total of 265 full time employees in Northern Colorado, 18 are current residents of Wellington.