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Court asked to reconsider Dutra ruling

The City of Petaluma and local environmental groups last week requested that a State Court of Appeals reconsider its recent ruling paving the way for the construction of a controversial asphalt processing plant south of town between Highway 101 and the Petaluma River.

The "Petition for Rehearing" was filed on March 14, two weeks after the 1st District Court of Appeals unanimously denied the City of Petaluma's lawsuit that sought to block the Dutra Group from locating an asphalt plant across the river from Shollenberger Park.

For two decades, the San Rafael-based Dutra company operated an asphalt plant at the former rock quarry where Petaluma Boulevard South passes under Highway 101, and for several years after that operated at a temporary site across the Petaluma River from the Sheraton Hotel.

The company's proposed new plant, to be located just south of city limits and directly across the river from the 165-acre wetlands of Shollenberger Park, generated intense public resistance when it was being reviewed by the County Board of Supervisors in late 2008. Shortly after supervisors approved the project in 2010 on a split vote, the City of Petaluma joined local non-profit environmental groups in filing a lawsuit claiming the county had violated state open meeting laws and failed to adequately assess the project's environmental impacts. Objections focused on noise and visual impacts, as well as air pollution and health concerns, claims that Judge Rene Chouteau dismissed in his December 2011 ruling in the county's favor.

The city subsequently appealed Chouteau's ruling, but the District Court's three-judge panel rejected the appeal Feb. 28. According to a press release submitted by former Petaluma City Councilman David Keller, "Our community has fought long and hard to preserve and protect our most popular park, our wetlands, our health, and our gateway. We will continue to make our case for the rejection of the Dutra Asphalt factory at the proposed location and defend our community against degradation by Dutra's project."

Should the court reject this latest appeal, the nonprofit groups and the city could file one final appeal with the state Supreme Court, but traditionally the higher court only hears cases in which the appellate judges issued a divided decision.


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