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Asphalt Plant in Review

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Five years ago this month, Westford residents lost a bitter fight over a proposed asphalt plant in the northeast corner of town bordering Chelmsford.

The battle between Richard DeFelice, owner of Newport Materials at 540 Groton Road, and opposing residents, played out for years beginning in 2010 when DeFelice filed for a special permit to build an asphalt manufacturing plant on about 3 of 115 acres. The agreement  in October 2016 included an extensive list of mitigation measures that DeFelice said he would provide to the town in return for the special permit approval.

Upon learning of the settlement, opposing residents were crushed and accused the select board of brokering a secret deal. There were demonstrations on the common and “no asphalt plant” signs everywhere. Residents said they worried about additional traffic, noise and air pollutants, and how they may affect children living in the area.

But after losing one court battle after another, with a few twists and turns over a six year period, select board members announced the settlement on Oct. 12, 2016 — seven days after the agreement had been signed.

In return, DeFelice offered a mitigation package estimated to be worth $8.5 million. In a press release, Town Manager Jodi Ross announced the conclusion to years of rancor. 

“The mitigation package includes extensive neighborhood protection and operational limitations,” she stated, “including: 

  • restrictions on the future use of the 540 Groton Road property;
  • a strict limit of no more than 200 vehicles per day;
  • reimbursement of the town’s legal fees ($550,000), a neighborhood mitigation fund ($200,000), a Sport Utility Vehicle for the Police Department, 
  • 20 miles of roadway paving;
  • 10 miles of sidewalk construction, repaving of 30 Tennis/Basketball courts and provision of 300 tons of asphalt for 20 years to the Highway Department.  In exchange, Newport of Nashua, New Hampshire, will be able to build an asphalt manufacturing plant on the property in accordance with a Special Permit with approximately 100 conditions of approval.  
  • Newport will pay for technical consultants.

In August 2017, Newport Materials was fined $20K by the Department of Environmental Protection for non compliance of ground water monitoring, among other things.

Laurence Sweeney, speaking on behalf of the Route 40 Coalition, a group opposed to the plant, stated “The initial outpouring of community concerns regarding the DEP air permit did not prevent the permit from being issued.  However, these concerns did refocus the DEP to increase and update its asphalt plant permit restrictions and requirements.”

But interim Health Director Rae Dick had a positive outlook for Newport and its plant http://Newport and its plant.

“We don’t have any listed violations with them,” Dick said. She noted that the DEP had fielded some complaints about odors coming from the plant. Consequently, bay doors were installed, allowing trucks to pull in, get serviced, and leave while the odor remains inside the garage.

The town’s Health Department is the governing body of the asphalt plant.

“It’s a very clean and organized property,” Dick said. “Any time of day (I arrive )– expected or not — it’s always clean, organized and professional.”