The Botetourt Planning Commission was split over whether a proposed temporary asphalt plant in the Gala community north of Eagle Rock would be safe on property that’s in the James River flood plain.

The commissioners voted 3-2 to recommend the Board of Supervisors deny a rezoning and special exceptions permit (SEP) for the asphalt plant that Boxley Materials wants to use for paving US 220 when improvements to the highway between Eagle Rock and Iron Gate begin next year.

Boxley Materials representative Bobby Wampler with Engineering Concepts Inc. said the company would proffer that the 20 acres needed for the asphalt plant would revert to A-1 Agriculture zoning when the highway project was complete— that’s projected to be in 2021.

Boxley Materials Co. applied to lease 20 acres of a 152.691-acre tract that belongs to Gala Farm LLC if it is rezoned from the Agricultural (A-1) Use District to the Industrial (M-3) Use District for the asphalt plant.

The company is also seeking a special exception permit (SEP) for individual well and septic systems on the property.

Boxley Materials will be providing asphalt for Phase 2 of the safety improvements, which begins south of the intersection with Rt. 43 (Narrow Passage Road) and ends north of the intersection with Rt. 622 (Gala Loop Road).

According to the rezoning application, the selected location of the asphalt plant is adjacent to and at the midway point for the proposed construction.

The site would contain a variety of structures and equipment associated with asphalt production, such as a bag house, asphalt recycler, drum mixer, hopper, asphalt tank, silo and a 25×12 building.

Boxley Materials asphalt plant manager Ken Arthur said the company would not store any chemicals on site, but would instead order liquid asphalt with the chemicals already in it. There would also be diesel fuel on site for the trucks needed to haul the asphalt.

When asked, Boxley COO Jeff Perkins said the company would like to be closer to the work than having the plant on property it owns six miles away on US 220 south of Eagle Rock at Santana Farms. He said it would reduce truck traffic while paving is taking place.

He said the company could not find another suitable site in the Gala vicinity that was large enough.

Several commissioners were concerned about whether the company could deal with high water from the James River and the potential for liquid asphalt getting into the river.

The Boxley representatives said the plant would be protected by a berm that would be about 2 feet higher than the 100-year-flood plain elevation, and the 30,000-gallon liquid asphalt tank would be raised as well to protect it from high water.

Property owner Richard Thompson said the field where the plant would be located was not covered in 1969 or 1972; and in 1985 the field was only partially covered.

He said anything that did escape from the asphalt plant would go in a ditch that would have to travel across a neighboring property and through the VDOT-owned wetlands area further south before it would reach the James River.

He said there would be plenty of time to deal with it before it reached the river.

Arthur said the liquid asphalt is kept at about 300 degrees, and when it cools it solidifies and is not water soluble.

One nearby neighbor worried about the odor from the plant and atmosphere pollution from the plant that might affect those with respiratory problems and asthma.

Arthur said asphalt plants do have some odor, but it’s minor and air quality from the plant is monitored by the Department of Environmental Quality. “Some of the air that comes out of the stack is cleaner than what goes in,” he told the Planning Commission.

Fincastle District commissioner John Griffin wasn’t convinced the company could guarantee the James River would not be affected should there be flooding.

“I have good faith in Boxley,” Griffin said, “but I’ve got a problem with the wetlands with a flood and I just don’t think M-3 is good in this area. And with the river, it’s a problem we could have. I can’t support it.”

Griffin made the motion to recommend denying the rezoning and the separate motion to deny a SEP for a well and septic system.

Commissioner Hiawatha Nicely said he’d been in the chemical business 25 years and said if something can go wrong, it will, and he could not support the rezoning.

Commissioner Sam Foster said the James River through the county has been designated a Scenic River and the county is promoting that and wants to protect it.

He said it would be incompatable putting an M-3 in the flood plain.

He also said despite Boxley’s claim that it would remove the liquid asphalt should there be a storm that might cause flooding, in 1985 the county didn’t know until late until in the afternoon how serious that flood would be, so there would be no time to remove the asphalt.

Commissioners William Thurman and Steve Kidd both said they were comfortable with the provisions Boxley would make for the proposed asphalt plant, noting that the increased truck traffic from the Santana Farm site was a consideration, too.

The Planning Commission voted 4-0 (Thurman recused himself) to recommend rezoning and approving an SEP for Altec Industries Inc.’s property at Botetourt Center at Greenfield.

The company asked to rezone all of its 49.99 acres from the Industrial (M-2) Use District to a Research and Advanced Manufacturing District (RAM) Use District.

Rezoning the property to a RAM District makes it more flexible and brings all of it in line with zoning in the rest of the industrial park. The county created the RAM District a few years ago to provide a district that allows research and manufacturing in one facility— a more common industrial use these days. At the time, the Board of Supervisors also rezoned much of Greenfield to the RAM District. Since Altec was already in place with the M-2 zoning, it was not affected by the changes to the rest of the industrial park.

The company is also seeking an SEP that will allow for outdoor testing on various parts of the site as needed.

The planners recommended approving a request by Janet K. and Del E. Montgomery to rezone 1.8 acres of a 2.274-acre lot from the Agricultural (A-1) Use District to the Rural Residential (RR) Use District in order to maintain an existing single-family dwelling at 4519 Catawba Road, Troutville, near the intersection of Blacksburg Road.

The Board of Supervisors will take up the requests at hearings at 6 p.m. September 26 during its meeting at Greenfield Education and Training Center.