Amid a heated debate over a pair of proposed asphalt plants in the Licking County village of Alexandria, a new controversy developed this week when St. Albans residents learned of plans for new water- and sewage-treatment plants just south of the village and west of Granville.
At one point during a Thursday evening meeting of the St. Albans Township Zoning Commission, board member Denise Martin lashed out at a neighbor of the Martin Trucking company she co-owns, where one of the asphalt plants is proposed.
“I’m done with you! You can leave!” Martin shouted after berating the neighbor, who raised a concern about a possible conflict of interest for Martin. She was seated with her fellow commission members at the front of the room at the time.
More than a dozen people recently signed and mailed a letter asking St. Albans Township trustees to “immediately suspend and remove Denise Martin” from the zoning commission, accusing her company of several violations of the zoning regulations she is charged with upholding.
“Her obvious and blatant disregard of the regulations constitutes not only misconduct in office, but a violation of public trust that renders her unfit to serve on the Zoning Commission,” the letter says.
Those concerns also were expressed directly to her and fellow zoning commission members during Thursday’s meeting.
And if that wasn’t enough for one meeting, the township firehouse full of people for the meeting learned that the Southwest Licking Community Water and Sewer District recently purchased about 100 acres in St. Albans Township in anticipation of providing water and sewage-treatment services to current and future homes and businesses in western Licking County. The land is east of Rt. 37 between Rt. 16 on the north and Morse Road on the south.
While details about the use of the land are still being formed, a Southwest Licking Water and Sewer official said in a news release Thursday that the land is large enough for both water and sewer treatment facilities.
“We began planning a number of years ago, and this is a continuation and expansion of that capacity,” CJ Gilcher, interim General Manager of the water and sewer district operations based in Pataskala, said in a news release Thursday.
“The site not only presents a regional solution to potential water and sewer service, but also opens the door to new regional partnerships and opportunities to combine existing facilities,” the news release said.
The water and sewer district’s news also is raising concerns that access to new water- and sewage-treatment facilities will fuel rapid growth and development in the rural areas between Granville and New Albany. The St. Albans Township Trustees will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the township fire house in Alexandria.
Amid discussion about the sewer and water treatment facilities Thursday, heated conversation about the proposed asphalt plants resurfaced.
At the end of February, two Shelly Company affiliates expressed interest in installing asphalt plants on the east and west sides of Alexandria in St. Albans Township. This prompted immediate concern from both St. Albans Township residents and Granville residents about possible pollution.
The proposed manufacturing facilities, which would use petroleum products mixed with gravel, would sit along Raccoon Creek, which contributes to the drinking water supply for Granville and Alexandria.
One of the asphalt plants is proposed just east of Rt. 37 at 1434 Tharp Road on land owned by James Geiger. It’s on the southeast side of Alexandria, and Shelly Materials already has a facility there. St. Albans Township Zoning Inspector Tom Frederick said a concrete-mixing plant also is proposed for that property.
The second location for an asphalt plant, according to Frederick’s post on the township website, is at 2915 Johnstown Alexandria Road. It is on Martin Trucking property owned by Donald and Denise Martin, on Rt. 37 on the northwest side of Alexandria, according to the Licking County Auditor’s website.
People associated with both properties also hold positions on township boards. Denise Martin sits on the township’s zoning commission, and Colleen Geiger, who is James Geiger’s wife, has a seat on the St. Albans zoning board of appeals.
Some township residents raised concerns during Thursday’s meeting about a potential conflict of interest. Ben Zanks, who lives next door to Martin Trucking, was among those who expressed concern.
“I want to address Denise Martins’ seat on this board,” Zanks said. “In the past, she has done construction projects with no permits and has failed to let anyone know about them. Luckily for me, they were right outside my daughter’s bedroom window when she decided to pour her cement slab.”
Zanks said the close proximity of his house to Martin Trucking affects his children’s ability to play outside without breathing in dust from the gravel and concrete-mixing on the site. Last month, he said in an interview that he is concerned not only for the health and safety of his family, but also for the future of the Alexandria community if the two asphalt plants are allowed.
Zanks received a big round of applause from many of the approximately 60 people in attendance.
He began to add a concluding statement after the applause, but Denise Martin interrupted him and shouted, “I have the floor Mr. Zanks! You have never once, not once approached us about anything on our property.”
Zanks said that wasn’t true and that he had contacted her company in the past.
Later in the meeting, Martin apologized to the audience for her outbursts.
But concerns remained.
“I think it’s time to start thinking about having some alternates” for the board, Fredericks said.
Jack Wolf writes for TheReportingProject.org, the nonprofit news organization of the Denison University Journalism Program, which is sponsored in part by the Mellon Foundation.