Five years after its initial rejection, Newport Materials returned to the Planning Board in a special session at the Blanchard School on Wednesday night. The evening began a second attempt to construct a bituminous concrete facility just off Groton Road near the Chelmsford border.
Wednesday’s meeting follows a ruling from Land Court Judge Alexander H. Sands III last month remanding the site plan to the Planning Board. Under the remand, the board must consider the plant as a light industrial use if it meets a certain set of criteria.
This decision overturned a 4-1 ruling by the Planning Board in 2010 that Newport’s application did not meet the town’s definition of a light industrial use under town bylaws.
Sands’ set of criteria includes a variety of provisions, most notably relating to limiting sound at the property, employing five or more people at the site, and requiring a clean source of energy for the facility.
According to Attorney Douglas Deschenes, one of Newport’s representatives, the special permit application for the plant meets all of the criteria with the exception of a limitation for sound along the western border of the facility. There, Newport will seek a waiver.
Even with a 1,200 foot long, 35 to 50 foot tall noise buffer, Deschenes says that the noise may exceed the 70 decibel limit that is part of the criteria.
However, he noted to the board that the only neighboring parcel within audible distance of the western border would be the Fletcher’s Quarry facility. Deschenes told the board that owners of the quarry have told him they do not have an issue with the expected decibel levels.
In 2011, Newport also obtained a clean air permit from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection for the proposed facility contingent upon a variety of conditions ranging from a maximum of 60,000 tons of asphalt produced in a month to prohibiting operation between Dec. 15 and March 15.
Deschenes told the board that Newport would also limit production, ensuring only 125 truck trips were made in and out of the facility each day on average. The proposed special permit also prohibits right turns out of the site into more populated portions of Westford.
The evening’s largest decision came from Planning Board Member Dennis Galvin, who requested the town obtain independent peer review on the plant’s proposed power source, with Deschenes says would be completely electric.
Around a dozen residents from Westford and some from Chelmsford near where the facility would be constructed gave a variety of questions and comments on the facility for about an hour straight, mainly questioning the impact this new facility would have on the nearby neighborhood.
Alisa Nakashian-Holsberg was one of those residents, directly challenging claims by Newport that a comparable plant in Portsmouth did not impact occupants of an adjacent day care center in Portsmouth, NH.
“The judge got it wrong, I think it’s preposterous that this type of operation be considered light manufacturing,” said Nakashian-Holsberg.
While the board may deny the special permit for Newport’s site plan and several other applications relating to stormwater and traffic flow, the board must consider Newport’s adherence to the judge’s criteria in their ruling.
Judge Sands also put a deadline of March 26 for a final ruling from the Planning Board, although Galvin noted that the judge said that there could be an extension with approval from Newport if good faith efforts are being made to move the process forward.
The Planning Board will meet for another session at the Blanchard School on Monday, Jan. 26.