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Concrete plant receives approval from Authority

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“We are pleased with it,” says Jim Mitchell about Thursday’s decision by the Roswell-Chaves County Extraterritorial Zoning Authority to allow his company to operate a concrete plant on West Brasher Road. “We plan on being a good neighbor.” (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

After compromise efforts between business operators and nearby property owners, a proposed concrete plant can open on West Brasher Road for at least 10 years.

The Roswell-Chaves County Extraterritorial Zoning Authority decided Thursday after an hour-and-a-half hearing to grant JHTC Investments LLC and its affiliated company, Chance Material Inc., a 10-year special-use permit on about 56 acres in the 3100 block of West Brasher for the cement operation.

The special-use permit was approved instead of the company’s request for a rezoning of the property to industrial. The rezoning would have been permanent, could have affected future development in the area and, in the case of a property sale, would have enabled future owners to develop industrial projects on the land.

“We are pleased with it,” says Jim Mitchell, one of the co-owners of JHTC Investments, about the decision. He added that he expects to be able to get another permit after the initial 10-year term. “We plan on being a good neighbor, and I don’t see anything happening to jeopardize that.”

Mitchell said the plant will open soon, probably with about 18 employees. He told ETZ Authority members during his opening remarks that he expects the company to generate $300,000 in annual taxable income and to have an annual payroll of about $800,000 for Chaves County employees.

The Authority’s 4-1 decision followed efforts by Mitchell, the new plant manager Alan Simms and some of the property owners who called themselves “The West of the Hondo Neighbors Group” to reach a consensus on terms under which they could agree to the plant operating in an area with homes nearby.

Their negotiations followed a May 19 hearing before the Roswell-Chaves County Extraterritorial Zoning Commission that ended with a 4-1 vote against Mitchell’s rezoning application, which led to the appeal to the ETZ Authority. The Authority consists of two Roswell city councilors and three Chaves County commissioners.

At the original hearing before the ETZ Commission, 20 neighbors spoke in opposition to Mitchell’s request. They challenged what had been described in his original application as well as property signage as a permanent zoning change from rural suburban to industrial, a possible asphalt plant as well as the concrete plant, and operations that could run 24 hours a day.

Those opposing the plant worried about the noise, dust, possible carcinogens and pollutants, and traffic. Some also opposed Mitchell’s plans to have the property annexed so that it could be hooked up to city water, saying they did not want to be near city operations and that the move might give the city a “foothold” to annexing their property as well.

The agreement Mitchell and Sims worked out with the neighbors included several stipulations: no annexation; no asphalt plant; no mining operations on the seven or so acres of the property west of the Hondo River; limited recycling operations with a crusher, with all crushing to occur below ground; no heavy equipment and trucks on South Eisenhower Road unless making a delivery in the area; operating for 24 hours a day only up to three times a year; controlling dust and pollutants, which Mitchell said also will be monitored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; and raising berms along the west side of the property.

During Thursday’s meeting, many homeowners said that they had decided to rescind their opposition based on the compromise, but about eight still spoke against the plant. Some noted that a nearby bridge is not suited for continued use by heavy loads, a matter county officials said they would investigate. Others reiterated that the dust and pollutants represent a health hazard, especially to those with asthma and other health conditions. Others said they could support a temporary special-use permit but not a permanent rezoning.

After listening to the seven people who spoke in favor of the plant and those opposed, Will Cavin, Chaves County Commissioner, moved to have a 10-year special-use permit given, rather than the rezoning. City Councilor Jeanine Best seconded the motion.

Stanton Riggs, Chaves County manager and attorney, said that a new permit would be issued rather than an amendment of the existing permit, which has allowed for sand and gravel operations on the property since 1985. In response to Cavin’s suggestion that the stipulated points in the agreement worked out with the West of the Hondo Neighbors Group be included as part of the ETZ decision, Riggs said that the agreement about no annexation would have to be removed because the county cannot mandate anything concerning a city action.

Robert Corn, Chaves County commissioner and chair of the ETZ Authority, and Roswell City Councilor George Peterson joined Cavin and Best in voting for the permit. Chaves County Commissioner Dara Dana cast the sole dissenting vote without a public explanation.

Some people asked what they could do if the conditions of the agreement were not being upheld. Mitchell said to call him, but they were also told they could contact county officials.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.