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Breaking Ground 

How one neighborhood's victory against an asphalt plant may be another neighborhood's loss.

click to enlarge A controversial asphalt plant may be moving near Haley Lake\\\'s neighborhood - and she\\\'s fighting it. - JEFF FERGUSON
  • Jeff Ferguson
  • A controversial asphalt plant may be moving near Haley Lake\\\'s neighborhood - and she\\\'s fighting it.

Lou Rawson, in Rathdrum, Idaho, remembers how hard the Stepping Stones Neighborhood Association fought against the prospect of an asphalt plant next door.

“We put about $10,000” to pay for two lawyers, he says. “We fought and we lost.”

For the past two years, Rawson says, the Coeur d’Alene Paving asphalt plant has operated next to 150 mobile homes. “There’s a house within 500 feet from the asphalt maker. … They’ve been here all this time, and they’ve run our property value down.”

When the plant’s two-year permit came to a close, however, Kootenai County commissioners asked Coeur d’Alene Paving to find a new spot for their plant, in part because of neighborhood protests. In a sense, the neighbors had finally won.

But now the new intended site — literally touching the Washington-Idaho state line, a bit behind Stateline Speedway — has angered an entirely new crop of neighbors.

Joyce Flanagan, a Washington resident living about a block from Idaho, was one of 183 residents who sent in comments to the county showing their opposition to the site. The asphalt plant itself, she says, would likely only be about a third of a mile away from her house.

“Where we live, the wind blows a lot of directions,” Flanagan says. “We’ve got the noise, we’ve got the smell, we’ve got the toxins, the dust.”

Kootenai County Commissioner Todd Tondee says it’s an area already beset by those types of issues. There’s the noise from the speedway. “There are several other mining operations in the vicinity,” Tondee says. The Poe Asphalt plant, for example, is a little more than a mile away from Flanagan’s house.

Besides the nearby WoodBridge subdivision and some houses on the Washington side, most of the area is zoned for agricultural use. “The ground is very rocky,” Tondee says. “It’s a good [mining] resource.”

Craig Cozad, Coeur d’Alene Paving co-owner, meanwhile, says the outcry over this new spot hasn’t been nearly as loud.

“We’ll have a dust mitigation plan. We’re going to build berms,” Cozad says. “We’re several thousands of feet away from houses.”

Flanagan maintains that the addition of a new plant would markedly decrease the area’s quality of life.

“Why one more? That’s the question,” Flanagan says. While other nearby operations only have sporadic activity, she’s concerned this new plant would operate six days a week. Diane Fink, another neighbor, says the air from the Poe plant has already exacerbated her asthma. She worries a new plant will only make it worse.

The county commissioners have already made the decision to change the zoning from agricultural to mining — though the formalities haven’t been finalized. That gives Coeur d’Alene Paving the ability to put in a gravel pit. For a working asphalt plant, however, they’ll need a special permit from the county.

That gives neighbors one more chance to challenge the upcoming plant, and Coeur d’Alene Paving one more challenge to surmount.

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