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Neighbors organized against plant expansion

SHEFFIELD/NORTH CANAAN — Century Acquisitions Inc. is planning to expand its plant on Clayton Road. Currently, the company is waiting approval from the state of Massachusetts for a plan to add hot mix asphalt batch production. Many neighboring residents are strongly opposed.A concrete batch plant has operated on the site for more than 50 years. Century, based in New York state, bought the plant from Connecticut Sand and Stone in 2001.While the plant is in Sheffield — only the driveway is in North Canaan — the closest neighbors are in Connecticut along Clayton Road. An expansion plan was proposed several years ago. The application before the Sheffield Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) was eventually withdrawn. Nearby property owners have re-established their grassroots opposition group, NO Asphalt Defense Fund (NADF). They claim that the plant’s impacts increased, including dust, noise, truck traffic and longer hours of operation, increased when Century took over. They fear that emissions from the production of asphalt mix, commonly known as blacktop, will include toxic levels of airborne particulates and carbon dioxide.The plant predates Sheffield zoning (enacted in 1994) and operates as an allowed nonconforming use. That puts in under the scrutiny of ZBA. It is not allowed to substantially change the scope or nature of its business or make modifications that would be “substantially more detrimental” to the neighborhood, according to the regulations.Century Acquisitions General Manager Greg Marlowe told The Lakeville Journal it is the same plan as before, and that the process of seeking permitting has not stopped since the prior application was withdrawn. It is currently seeking an air quality permit from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).NO Asphalt Defense Fund members have issued a written statement detailing their concerns. In referring to the Zoning Board of Appeals matter, it noted that “great community concern at the time compelled the ZBA to close the public hearings and ask [Century Acquisitions] to withdraw its application.”But a public hearing that spanned many weeks ended Jan. 21 with a two-part decision.Century was allowed to continue to operate within the status of its nonconforming use; ZBA ruled the neighbors failed to provide sufficient proof of increased impacts. In one instance the hours of operation they cited were contradicted by computer monitoring of daily plant operations.Sheffield officials had made some procedural missteps in dealing with the application process, which gave Century the option to withdraw its application without prejudice. That gave the company the right to resubmit the same application at a later date. The application has not yet been resubmitted to the town.The Sheffield building official did not return a phone call from The Journal.Marlowe explained the lack of comment was likely due to the lack of an application.The expansion plan calls for a new facility and stack to be built on a back corner of the property, as far as possible from the residential neighborhood. Trucks would bring in liquid asphalt, which would be mixed in a small proportion with stones. The hot mix, or blacktop, would be immediately loaded into trucks to be used in paving projects. Volume will depend on need here. The goal is to provide product for customers in this area so trucks do not have to drive the 60 miles or so from the New York plant.The DEP did not return calls, either. Marlowe said the agency is looking at the entire area and does a modeling of emissions dispersion to establish the greatest potential impacts to compare against government guidelines. “If the air quality permit is approved, the local building official will need to decide if a zoning permit is needed, and if so, kick it to the ZBA,” Marlowe said.The DEP permit is good for five years. Marlowe said Century has no specific time frame for expansion, and said it may not happen at all.

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