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Residents mount opposition to asphalt plant in Hamburg

It didn't take long for opposition to mount on a proposed asphalt plant on Camp Road in Hamburg.

Opponents have created a website, Stop Asphalt Production in Hamburg, N.Y. , started an online petition against the plant and packed the last town Planning Board meeting to protest the plant. They also are contacting their elected representatives, including candidates for Erie County executive, who are weighing in against it.

Hamburg planning officials expect another standing room-only crowd Wednesday evening for the continuation of the hearing on the proposal.

AL Asphalt Corp. wants to open the plant at 5690 Camp Road, where Riefler, and later Great Lakes Concrete, manufactured concrete for years. The plant's proximity to Hamburg Middle and High schools, a nursing home and homes and other businesses has drawn the ire of residents and elected officials worried about odors and dangerous emissions.

The property is zoned for manufacturing, and a hot asphalt plant like this one is allowed. The Planning Board is reviewing the site plan for the new use. It will make a determination on the possible environmental impacts of the plant, and then decide whether the site plan is acceptable.

"Asphalt plants are difficult to site," said Drew Reilly, the town's planning consultant, but he added, "We have to follow process and procedures."

Reilly maintains one of the main points the Planning Board will have to consider is public health and safety.

"Just because a property is zoned correctly does not mean it has to be approved," Reilly said.

Corey Auerbach, the attorney for the company, said the state has determined that a project this size that is allowable within the zoning district does not present a significant environmental impact.

An odor study conducted by a contractor hired by AL Asphalt concluded odors should not be detected off-site, he said.

"The applicant is asking to use the property for a use the town has already determined is in harmony with the zoning plan and will not adversely affect the neighborhood," he said.

The project even has candidates for Erie County executive speaking out. County Legislator Lynne Dixon, who is running for county executive, lives in the Village of Hamburg near the plant, and represents the area. She has said on Twitter that she has received calls on the project, and she shares the concerns of the residents.

Dixon has received a $250 campaign contribution from AL Asphalt Corp., and Roseanne DiPizio, who owns the site and who made the application for the plant, hosted a fundraiser for Dixon. But Dixon said that has no bearing on the project, because the County Legislature has no authority over the siting of the plant.

"I oppose this project as a resident," Dixon said.

County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz said he has "grave concerns" over the plant and it is not in the interest of the community to locate it there. He sent a letter to the state Department of Environmental Conservation urging it to undertake the "most stringent possible review" of the company's application.

The Planning Board meeting is scheduled at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Town Hall.

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