U.S.A.: Permit for controversial cement plant in Attleboro rescinded


Updated Tue, 29 Mar 2016 13:13:08 GMT

A building permit issued for a controversial cement plant has been rescinded by the zoning board of appeals, but the battle will go on.

The ruling is at least a temporary win for the Zarek Drive neighbors of Attleboro Sand & Gravel who've been fighting the company for years over issues of dust, noise and trucking.

In the decision filed March 22, the board ruled that the plant proposed by Attleboro Sand & Gravel is not allowed in the industrial business park zone where the company's 180-acre property is located off Tiffany Street.

While the version of an IBP zone in effect at the time applications for the plant were made in 2012 did not specifically prohibit a cement plant, its provisions against heavy industry did, the board ruled.

Under the IBP ordinance, the "processing and treating of raw materials" is allowed. However, the board ruled that the combination of raw materials into cement constitutes "heavy manufacturing," which is not allowed.

While "light manufacturing" is allowed in an IBP zone, the board further ruled that dust and noise associated with machinery needed to make cement in an unenclosed concrete plant is "heavy manufacturing."

The board also ruled that the manufacturing of cement, which occurred in prior years, is not allowed as a grandfathered right because it had ceased for more than two years.

The city council "clarified" the ordinance last June by specifically banning concrete and asphalt plants from industrial business park zones.

The building permit being appealed was for a foundation, and was issued on Jan. 11 by Building Inspector Bill McDonough.

McDonough said he issued the permit because the planning board had approved a site plan for the plant on a 6-0 vote on Feb. 6, 2013, and the zoning board had approved an earth removal permit for the plant on a 3-0 vote on Feb. 28, 2013.

The zoning board and the city council both voted to approve above-ground fuel storage tanks to service the concrete operation on 3-0 and 10-0 votes, respectively.

Zarek Drive resident Rob Geddes argued the case for the neighbors during a March 10 public hearing. Tim Higgins of Edgewood Development argued for Attleboro Sand & Gravel.

The dispute is far from over, however.

In September of 2014, after it became apparent that the city would never allow an asphalt plant on the property, the company filed a lawsuit in land court arguing that asphalt plants are allowed under the IBP's "light manufacturing" and "processing and treating of raw materials," provisions. The company also argued that it should be allowed grandfathered rights to build.

The court has yet to rule in that case.

In addition, the company has submitted an eight-lot commercial subdivision plan to the planning board, arguing that it will, if approved, freeze zoning provisions in place prior to the city's decision to ban concrete and asphalt plants in June.

The company made that move in an attempt to preserve its right to build, if the court decides in its favor.

That hearing was continued.