CUMMING, Ga. — The Forsyth County Commission faced an audience of hundreds Nov. 21 as officials considered an application to build an asphalt plant at the south end of the county.
The application, filed by CW Matthews Contracting, calls for replacing an existing facility with what the company says will be a newer, cleaner and more energy-efficient operation.
More than 500 community members who were in opposition of the proposed plant on Granite Lane near Peachtree Parkway wore red T-shirts with the words “No Asphalt” and carried signs and banners into the meeting. Additional opponents stood in the lobby, stairwell and entranceway.
The issue has also garnered attention in nearby Johns Creek which sits just to the south of the site. Residents there spoke of their concerns at a town hall meeting with city officials earlier last month.
During the public comment portion of the Forsyth County meeting, residents raised concerns over pollution, noise and the effect the plant will have on neighboring property values. About a third of the room raised their hands after Forsyth County Commission Chairman Laura Semanson asked for a show of hands for those wishing to comment after the traditional comment time expired.
Speaking on behalf of the application, Catherine Sutton-Choate, director of Environmental Compliance for plant manufacturer ASTEC Inc., said that the new equipment meets the highest environmental standards.
"If there is an issue or if a machine is operating incorrectly, it will shut itself down and a person cannot override it," Sutton-Choate said.
Dan Garcia, president of CW Matthews, equated the upgraded plant with a new car.
“It's going to be updated which means more efficient, more environmentally friendly, just overall better for the surrounding community," he said.
The application states that the plant would replace an existing facility and would reduce energy usage by from 3 to 30 percent on various machinery. The plant would also be quieter, he said, with a reduction in noise levels of between 12-18 decibels.
A petition opposing the construction has 6,000 signatures. It outlines concerns such as close proximity to residential homes and schools, increased traffic in the area, and air pollution due to hazardous emissions.
County Commissioner Dennis Brown addressed the crowd, taking responsibility for the issue.
"I asked for this, not this board,” Brown said. “I live less than a mile from the plant, and I would never put my family or home in jeopardy. I thought this was a good idea and would be in the greater good for our community.”
Brown proposed a motion to move the final decision on the application to the first meeting in January. All commissioners voted in favor.
The application is scheduled for consideration again January 9th at 5 p.m. at the Forsyth County CAdministration Building.