By Bill Short
The Millington Board of Zoning Appeals has rejected an asphalt company’s request for a Special Exception to construct a new batch plant on Veterans Parkway.
At the conclusion of an Oct. 20 hearing in City Hall, board members John Bandy, Jay Forbess and John Perales voted against the request, while Chairman Doug Scott and Vice Chairman Chuck Hurt Jr. voted for it.
Since 1984, Standard Construction Co. has owned 16 acres now on Veterans Parkway that were originally on Raleigh-Millington Road and zoned M-1, Light Industrial. The company operated an asphalt batch plant there, which it closed in 2010.
Standard has a contract with the Millington Memphis Airport to repave the runway and sought to open a new plant at its previous location.
When Veterans Parkway was constructed, that area was re-zoned P-C, Planned Commercial, which normally does not allow such a plant.
But the Millington Board of Mayor and Aldermen recently passed an ordinance on two readings that allows asphalt or concrete batch plants to be constructed in certain zoning districts.
With Site Plan approval by the Millington Municipal Planning Commission, such plants can now be permitted in the M-3, Restricted Industrial District.
They can also be a use permitted on appeal as a Special Exception by the BZA in B-2, General Commercial; P-C; M-2, General Industrial; and M-P, Planned Industrial, districts.
But they must be located on a four-lane or wider roadway at least 500 feet from any residential area, with their production equipment and trucks screened from the street by buildings, landscaping or fencing.
On Oct. 19, the commission approved a Site Plan submitted by Standard and voted to refer its Special Exception request to the BZA.
Charles Goforth, planning consultant for the city, told the board that the company intended to close the existing entrance at the south end of the site and construct a new one at the traffic signal.
He said it also planned to supplement the “pretty substantial tree line” along the front of the property with an additional planting of evergreen trees and install a chain-link fence behind them.
During the portion of the hearing designated for public comments, Millington View resident Sherry Bright expressed concern about the safety and the smell, which she said would be “horrendous.”
She also said the site’s single entrance and exit would cause “tremendous” traffic congestion resulting in more wrecks. And the street would be destroyed, because it would be unable to withstand the weight of the trucks loaded with the “smelly asphalt.”
Bright wondered why the “industrial stuff” cannot be located in the Millington Industrial Park.
“Those are things you should be considering before you approve something like this,” she told the board. “That’s what we depend on you to do.”
Speaking on behalf of Standard, David Baker of the Fisher Arnold engineering firm in Memphis said he had worked with the city’s planning staff regarding the driveway location across from the traffic signal. And he planned to work with City Engineer Jason Dixon to upgrade the signal with turn arrows.
While acknowledging that there would be “activity” at the plant, Baker said it would not be a “huge” traffic generator.
“It is intermittent throughout the day,” he noted, “with no high-concentration peak times.”
Baker said the stormwater permit that must be obtained from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation would require Standard to have a plan in place if there is a gasoline spill from a truck.
And the air-quality permits from TDEC would require a plan for how to mitigate “fumes, smoke” or anything else that might come from the facility.
In response to a question by Scott, Baker acknowledged that the plant is not odorless.
While noting that he is also a resident of Millington View, Perales asked whether the wind carries the odor when it blows.
“I would imagine that there is a little bit of odor at times, especially during strong breezes,” Baker replied. “I do know that prevailing winds come out of the northwest, and that would blow things to the southeast, which would be away from the residential areas.”
Bandy asked whether Baker thought it would be “fair to the city” to put the plant here if he could not even address the questions that Bright asked.
“You can’t address any of these smell issues,” he said. “So, we don’t know any more now than we did before we asked you the questions.”
Baker said Standard would comply with all the federal, state and local requirements. And if there were any complaints, the company would be “glad” to work with the neighbors to alleviate any concerns they might have.
Forbess asked if there was any other location in the city that might be more “feasible,” because it was farther away from residential neighborhoods.
Baker said Standard considered the site an “ideal” location, because its proximity to the interstate would help the company serve not just the area, but also the region.