The Westford Planning Board is running out of time to make a decision regarding a proposed asphalt plant in Nabnasset and Monday served as a chance to address lingering concerns as the April 24 deadline draws closer.
With the lack of a quorum among the Planning Board next week, meetings needed to be scheduled on Monday and Tuesday evenings at the Blanchard School to examine five permits and special permits before the Planning Board regarding the Newport Asphalt Plant, which if approved would be situated just off Groton Road near Route 3 and the Chelmsford border.
One major point of discussion was what information being used by the board in their deliberations, particularly the inclusion of information from previous applications before the Planning Board in 2009.
Both Newport and the Planning Board had differing views on this, with Newport indicating that a vast array of materials presented to the board in 2009 were still part of the record on these hearings and that Newport attorney Douglas Deschenes would provide more specific information on those records for newer members of the board as requested.
In return, the Planning Board and members of town staff felt that the responsibility was on Deschenes and Newport to point out relevant documents from the 2009 hearings given the sheer volume of documents in addition to newer documents, limited staff resources to address the documents, time constraints relating to the April 24 deadline, unfamiliarity with the data for newer members of the board and members of the board who were present in 2009 but required a refresher in some areas.
At one point, a confrontation arose between Newport attorney Thomas Riley and Planning Board counsel Jonathan Silverstein whether some of the documents from that time frame being discussed were subject to confidentiality restrictions.
There was also new information discussed, most notably how amounts of crushed rock would impact production at the proposed facility.
Planning Board Member Dennis Galvin noted one document from 2009 citing that a comparable asphalt plant in Portsmouth, NH could crush up to 500,000 pounds of crushed rock per hour, a vital component in the asphalt process.
Deschenes and Newport owner Richard DiFelice reiterated claims from earlier meetings that the only crushing that will be done on-site will be that of recycled asphalt material, or RAP, with all crushed rock being brought in through public roads or side roads from the adjacent Fletcher’s Quarry.
That being said, additional questions from Galvin revealed that of the estimated 1,500 tons of asphalt that could be produced daily on the site, approximately 60 to 70 percent of that would come from crushed stone.
Deschenes indicated that the 1,500 ton limit was a voluntary cap proposed by Newport, with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) putting a mandatory yearly cap of 300,000 tons.
A variety of other concerns were addressed, leading to the Planning Board determining whether or not to close the public hearing, which is required before a final decision but would freeze their ability to obtain any new information that could aid in their decision.
Silverstein told the board that questions could still be asked on existing information if the public hearing was closed, and Westford Director of Land Use Planning Chris Kluchman noted that if the public hearing is closed, it could not be reopened before the deadline to satisfy public hearing legal notifications.
Public hearing was continued to Tuesday. There the Planning Board is expected to reach a vote regarding draft decisions prepared by town staff regarding site plan approval, approval for a Water Resources Protection Overlay District special permit, approval for a Stormwater Management permit and both an approval and a denial draft decision regarding a special permit for a Major Commercial Project.
Silverstein informed the board that the Land Court decision following the 2009 hearings does not limit the board’s discretion regarding permits, but that the board must strictly follow certain criteria within the Westford Zoning Bylaws in determining whether or not the plant could be considered a light industrial use.