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updated: 8/6/2012 11:17 PM

N. Aurora amends operating rules for asphalt plant

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North Aurora trustees agreed Monday to amend regulations regarding dust and fumes coming out of a nearly 40-year-old asphalt plant after a court decision found the rules unconstitutionally vague.

The amendments concerning the special-use permit for the Geneva Construction Co. hot-mix asphalt plant at 216 E. Butterfield Road were approved 5-1, with Trustee Vince Mancini voting against it.

The vote eliminated requirements about dust and odors traveling out of the plant and into neighboring properties and scuttled a mandatory triennial review of the permit.

Of concern to several trustees Monday were complaints from nearby residents about early-morning noise from the plant.

Plant operators suspect it is the clanking of flop gates where asphalt is poured into storage silos. The gates open to let asphalt in from a conveyor belt and let steam out. From the silo, the asphalt is loaded in to trucks.

The permit, granted in 1992, restricts operations to the hours of 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. but allows exceptions for government-contract work. The problem is that government contracts, including those for the Illinois Department of Transportation and the tollway authority, require asphalt to be delivered to job sites early. Asphalt for the construction of the Stearns Road Bridge in South Elgin had to be at the site by 6:30 a.m., Village Administrator Wes Kornowske said. Those early jobs mean the plant has to make asphalt and load trucks as early as 5 a.m. The same clause allows the plant to operate later in the evening if a government job requires product for a second work shift.

"So in other words, the (6 a.m. to 6 p.m.) is basically useless," Trustee Chris Faber said.

In 2011, a plant official said that about 90 percent of the plant's business was government work.

Trustee Laura Curtis asked for a compromise on behalf of Chesterfield Lakes subdivision residents, such as eliminating the government-work exception. She said besides awakening residents, the early-morning noises could reduce their property values. Trustee Ryan Lambert said the latter wasn't likely, because the asphalt plant was there before the homes. The plant has been there since 1973; the Chesterfield Lakes subdivision was built in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

"I bought there knowing there was an asphalt plant," Trustee Ryan Lambert said. "They may have known there was an asphalt plant but not that it would be operating at 4 a.m.," Curtis replied.

Mancini objected to eliminating the periodic review of the permit by the North Aurora Plan Commission and the village board. President Dale Berman, who was a trustee when the special-use permit was granted in 1992, said the board then required the review because "we had very little knowledge" about how asphalt plants operated and wanted a way to fix problems that cropped up.

Community development director Scott Buening said it wasn't needed because village officials can inspect the plant at any time, and that enforcement employees go out to inspect every time the village receives a complaint.

In 2011, the village sued Geneva Construction, alleging it violated village law by letting noxious odors escape its site; it sought fines of $750 per day and to close the plant.

This spring, a Kane County judge ruled the law was unconstitutionally vague and therefore unenforceable. The judge also dismissed a charge that the plant was a public nuisance.

The plant is still subject to performance standards specified for noise, dust, toxic chemicals and noxious odors in industrial areas, as outlined in the village's zoning code.

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