By Bruce Robinson
ASPHALTVILLE? Credit Vince Welnick with coining that one. Testifying against an asphalt plant proposed by Canyon Rock quarry owner Wendel Trappe, the former Grateful Dead keyboardist told the Sonoma County Planning Commission, "We live in Forestville. We don't want to have to change the name to Asphaltville."
While a name change is improbable, a sizable segment of this riverside hamlet in west county is worried that Trappe's plans could dramatically change the character of the town.
"The community doesn't want it," says Roz Johnson, whose home and small vineyard overlook the quarry. Johnson has mobilized much of the resistance that has coalesced against the proposal, because, she says, "it's going to affect Forestville. It's not about the properties next door, it's about the village."
Conversations with an attorney have already been held, in case the application is approved.
Canyon Rock, which has mined gravel on the 57-acre site for decades, is seeking a permit to install a prefabricated, self-contained batch plant near the rear of the quarry yard. Rock from the quarry would be mixed with hot oil to make the asphalt for job sites in the west county.
A similar application was submitted four years ago, but Trappe withdrew it when strong community opposition emerged. This time, however, he says he will see it through.
While the main beef is the potential for odors and increased heavy-truck traffic throughout central Forestville, additional objections include the use of toxic or carcinogenic compounds in the manufacturing process, increased dust and noise, and possible declines in the surrounding property values.
Trappe says that representatives of the manufacturer have assured him that the operation would be odorless and pose no threat to local air quality or to Green Valley Creek, which runs alongside the quarry.
As for traffic, Trappe concedes "there will be more trucks, but hopefully not that much of a difference."
Nearby residents aren't buying that. Challenging the traffic studies that were not updated since the initial 1993 application, a group of neighbors conducted their own traffic survey one midsummer Monday, counting 250 trucks going in and out of the quarry. County planner Ken Ellison has said the average truck count should be "approximately 100" per day.
To reconcile those disparate figures, county officials ordered a new traffic survey, as well as additional technical information about the plant, before making a decision. The application is due back before the Planning Commission Oct. 2.
In the meantime, opponents are on the move. Forestville Citizens for Sensible Growth, the local environmentalist group that has battled other urban intrusions, has weighed in against the application. FCSG published a four-page newspaper last week attacking the asphalt plant. "The benefits--presumably more profits--would accrue to just one person," noted one article. "But the costs . . . are borne by the people of Forestville."
THAT IS AS CLOSE as anyone has come to personally attacking Trappe, an affable man who is well regarded personally by many of the people who are strongly opposed to his business plans. Canyon Rock has made a separate application for permission to mine an additional 30 acres of adjacent hillside, while a second quarry just a half mile away has recently changed ownership and is reportedly preparing to expand, too.
The two could eventually face each other across a road that has been designated a state Scenic Highway.
"This has galvanized the community in a way we haven't seen in a decade or more," says FCSG spokesman Roger Karraker.
"It's gotten a lot of attention," agrees west county Supervisor Mike Reilly, who lives nearby and may ultimately have to vote on the matter. He views it in the larger context of the county's Aggregate Resources Management plan.
"I'm willing to support the expansion of quarries in order to get the gravel companies out of the river on the schedule we've set out," Reilly says. "We haven't had any new quarry mines started in Sonoma County since the ARM plan was adopted, so probably expansion of the current sites is the only way we're going to be able to effect that transition."
At the same time, "I don't think there's any direct linkage between the ARM plan and the siting of an asphalt plant at a quarry," Reilly continues. "There's a tenuous economic link that one could argue," but it's not enough to persuade him.
"The plant is going to have to stand on its own merits, pro or con."
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From the Nov. 6-12, 1997 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.
© Metro Publishing Inc.