Large opposition turns out against proposed Hamburg asphalt plant

Sep 5, 2019

Other than applicant lawyer Corey Auerbach, there does not appear to be anyone in favor of a proposed asphalt plant in Hamburg. A massive crowd of opposition overflowed a meeting room in Hamburg Town Hall Wednesday night for a Planning Board session.

Outside Town Hall was a line of sign-waving demonstrators, as others filed in to the Planning Board meeting.
Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

It was almost a community carnival outside Town Hall as signs were waved, buttons were distributed and the crowd rolled in, many from within walking distance. Not only is there wide community opposition, especially on social media, but the proposed ashalt plant is an issue in the Erie County executive election.

Republican candidate and county legislator Lynne Dixon lives near the proposed plant and is opposed, as is County Executive Mark Poloncarz, who had aides at the meeting. Planning Board Chairman William Clark said there will be another meeting before a decision.

"Projects like this or all projects, it's not about whether or not we like the project. It's not even about what's best for the town. There are certain criteria that we have to review and decide how the project fits into those criteria," Clark said.

Clark said he will try to find a larger room for the next meeting. Developer Auerbach wants the board to decide on the proposal.

Inside, it was an overflow crowd at Wednesday's Planning Board meeting in Hamburg.
Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

"Of great concern to the applicant is the fact that despite this board's obligation, for example, to declare themselves lead agency or to make a classification of the action, you've had our application for several months," Auerbach said. "The building inspector referred the application to this board, which is his determination that our use is permitted."

Other than Auerbach, no supporter of the project admitted to it last night. While the land is zoned for industry, many speakers said the project would violate provisions dealing with air quality spilling off the property.

Dana Floriano walked to the meeting to oppose the plant. Floriano said there are potentially hazardous fumes from asphalt plants and thet are different from the fumes from asphalt turned into a roadway.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

"That is a very short-term pollutant and it actually moves, it transitions as the construction is taking place," Floriano said. "It's not a stationary source of emissions that will have an impact on us on a daily basis. Different asphalt plants can produce 100,000-200,000 tons of product every year and that means that it's operating all year long in order for them to be profitable."

Christie Angrisano was part of the crowd opposed to the plant.

"We're concerned about the health impacts, first and foremost," she said. "It's a residential community, lots of young kids. The village has really seen a resurgence lately because it is a quality community to raise a family and enjoy life in, and this does nothing but detract from that."

The site off Camp Road at the edge of the village is familiar to passers-by because of its long-time use as a cement and cement products plant with highly visible buildings.

Matt Jackson said he grew up in Hamburg and left for a decade until returning to a good place. Jackson said the project is not good economic development.

The site for the proposed asphalt plant is off Camp Road, at the edge of Hamburg.
Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

"This area is zoned for industry and I think the biggest thing that we are trying to emphasize is that we're not opposed to economic development in our community. What we're opposed to is economic development that comes at the risk of our health, at the risk of our quality of life, at the risk of our property values," Jackson said. "Frankly, I just don't see a net benefit to this for our community."

Town Highway Superintendent Ted Casey said he is opposed to the proposal and wants actions by the Planning Board.

"Require a SEQR, an environmental impact assessment, as well as a site-specific human health risk assessment - which I do not believe has been even considered - as well as a traffic study," Casey said. "With these comprehensive studies, we aren't going to do an irresponsible move forward."