When Stephanie Taylor walks down Main Street, she says she wears safety goggles because of debris falling off of trucks carrying construction materials.
John Byrd built his home in 1956. “It’s an ideal place to live,” he said. “Across the street, there are big farm fields out there.” His home is now 120 feet away from a proposed asphalt manufacturing plant.
Sarah Chaulk said, “We feel like sitting ducks.”
All three of these Alexandria residents, and more than 30 others, attended a meeting Monday night sponsored by Friends of Alexandria. They share a concern that the village that hugs State Route 37 between Granville and Johnstown will be turned into an industrial zone, because asphalt plants are proposed for the northwest and southeast ends of the village.
The group is preparing for a public hearing the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is holding at 6 p.m. on Thursday, June 8, at the Church of Christ at Alexandria, 5380 Moots Run Road. Neighbors of one of the proposed asphalt plants, on the southeast side of town at 1400 Tharp Road, will have an opportunity to give public testimony.
Comments by those who cannot attend Thursday’s meeting can be sent to [email protected] through June 15, and the EPA director “will consider all comments submitted when deciding whether to issue a final permit.”
Monday’s informal meeting was held in a circle of Adirondack chairs in the outdoor dining area of a restaurant in the heart of Alexandria, near the one stoplight in town. The village, founded in 1830, is home to about 500 people.
Some of the concerns voiced at Monday night’s meeting were that the asphalt plant on Tharp Road will likely pollute the air of residential neighbors. They also believe that an asphalt on the banks of Raccoon Creek could lead to pollution in the stream, which helps feed the well field from which Alexandria and Granville get their drinking water. And the group is concerned about the number of trucks that would drive through town to service two working asphalt plants, which would mix gravel with petroleum products.
Scioto Materials, an affiliate of The Shelly Company, proposes the plant at 1400 Tharp Road, near Rt. 37 on the southeast side of the village, and Mar-Zane Materials of Zanesville proposes one for the northwest side at 2699 Johnstown Alexandria Road, which is the Martin Trucking property.
According to Allison Riggs, Alexandria resident voices already have made a difference on this issue, since the plant on the southeast side that was supposed to be up and running on April 1, 2023, still is not operating. According to Sarah Chaulk, Alexandria residents in this group want to delay this plant from opening to allow for further study. Ultimately, they would like this plant to move to a site that is already zoned industrial.
“To anyone who says that we can’t do this, it’s gonna happen anyway; that’s not necessarily true,” Taylor said.
Kristy Hawthorne, district program administrator for the Licking County Soil & Water Conservation District, explained that the EPA already recognizes the issue because it does not typically hold hearings for air permits. But they are holding the public hearing on Thursday night because of how vocal Alexandria residents have been with their concerns.
Monday night’s meeting was led by Riggs and Taylor. Riggs acknowledged that she has not been an active citizen until now. But citizen activism is the best resource the group has going for it, she said. No one in the group is a lawyer or elected official.
“We’re just people. Just a mom!” Riggs said.
“It’s been like a part-time job for the past couple of weeks,” she said. “I think for me, it has just been a call for ownership – owning where I live, understanding zoning. We are a small, little village.”
“This isn’t just about asphalt plants,” Riggs said. “We are going to have to be strong for years to come.”
Although Thursday’s Ohio EPA meeting will focus on the asphalt plant proposed for 1400 Tharp Road, on the southeast side, the community also faces the prospect of the other asphalt plant proposed for the Martin Trucking property on the northwest side.
The EPA says it is not taking public comment on the Mar-Zane air permit because the plant would be moved from another location to the Martin Trucking site. The EPA already approved a permit for the site south of Columbus where the plant is currently located, and that the permit would transfer with the plant.
If the EPA and Licking County Planning Commission approve the requests to install the plants, the St. Albans Board of Zoning Appeals would have to approve a conditional use permit to allow the projects to go forward. That process could take months, the township zoning inspector has said.