Company, residents at odds over proposed asphalt plant

The Strasburg Town Council has scheduled  a public hearing at 7 p.m. Monday about whether a company, Kickin’ Asphalt, can build an asphalt plant at the town’s business development park.

The hearing is set to pit two forces against each other: a locally owned company that is threatening to leave the county if the plan falls apart, and a group of local residents who aim to find a pro bono attorney if the plan passes.

According to David Stanley, project manager at Kickin’ Asphalt, having a new asphalt plant would allow the company to reduce its costs and would thus help it grow. Currently, the company relies on a middleman to get its asphalt, purchasing asphalt from a nearby plant.

“Our company is growing and, as a result, we are needing to relocate,” Stanley said.

Stanley said the Strasburg-based company plans to move its office and shop to the same location as the new plant. If the Strasburg Town Council does not pass the ordinance, Stanley said the company will move the company — including the office and shop — elsewhere.

“We’re looking at other locations, but they’re not in this county,” Stanley said.

He said the reason the company would move outside of the county if the Town Council’s vote does not fall in their favor has to do with available locations.

“There are limited opportunities for us in this area to be able to do all three of these things,” Stanley said.

While he has positioned the plans as beneficial to Kickin’ Asphalt’s bottom line, some local residents are fearful about what the new plant would mean for them.

“Most asphalt plants that you see are like way out there,” said Mary Sinquefield, one of the residents.

But the proposed plan would not be. It is slated to be located about a half mile away from Sinquefield’s and the other residents’ houses.

That proximity, the group fears, could negatively impact the health and the property values of the community.

“Probably the biggest thing we’re concerned about is the air quality,” said Carol Fowler, another member of the group.

Since the plan first entered the Strasburg Town Council on April 25, the group has actively taken steps to fight it. Members sent out petitions throughout the town, contacted local groups to see what actions they can take to stop the move and they  begun looking for an attorney.

“We’re hoping we can just influence [the Strasburg Town Council] not to vote for the permit,” Fowler said.

As part of their efforts to fight the proposed plan, the group contacted the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, an environmental organization based in North Carolina. The nonprofit has worked with the local homeowners’ organization to help them find information that might dissuade the Strasburg Town Council from approving the special use permit.

Lou Zeller, executive director of the Defense League, said that Kickin’ Asphalt does not  have an air permit with the state of Virginia, something that he said is necessary for an asphalt plant to have.

“The city doesn’t have enough information to make a good decision, so it’s a bit premature,” Zeller said.

Zeller noted that he is concerned about the potential environmental impact the asphalt plant would have. Asphalt plants generate a blue smoke, he said, and that smoke can travel to nearby areas.

“That blue smoke travels whatever way the wind blows, and it’s toxic,” Zeller said.

Stanley dismissed these concerns, noting that there is already an asphalt facility near the Interstate 81 exit at Strasburg.

But the local residents remain concerned about environmental effects and a possible fall in property values. Zeller said there is anecdotal evidence that property values decrease when an asphalt plant is built nearby.

Sinquefield said, “[The Strasburg Town Council is] not thinking about the damage that this could do to the community.”