Petaluma asphalt plant opponents' appeal denied

Opponents of an asphalt plant just outside Petaluma city limits have lost another legal battle and are mulling whether to pursue one final appeal, a review by the state Supreme Court.

The 1st District Court of Appeal in San Francisco this week denied a request by the Petaluma River Council, city of Petaluma and other plaintiffs for a rehearing before the same three-judge panel that unanimously rejected their appeal last month.

The groups had appealed a 2011 ruling of Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Rene Chouteau, who determined that the county's environmental analysis of the proposed Dutra Materials plant was adequate and that open meeting laws were followed when the issue came before the Board of Supervisors.

Petaluma River Council attorney Richard Drury of Oakland said Friday denial of the recent petition wasn't a surprise.

"We knew it was highly unlikely," he said. "But we thought we had some good reasons to ask."

San Rafael-based Dutra in 2004 proposed a plant on 38 acres just east of Highway 101 and south of the Petaluma River. Environmental groups and others, including the city of Petaluma, protested, creating one of the county's most high profile land-use battles in the past decade.

After rejecting one version of the plant, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors ultimately approved the environmental analysis, rezoning and construction of the facility in 2010.

Plaintiffs asked the panel to revisit its February decision on whether public meetings laws were followed in a Dec. 2010 hearing in which public comment wasn't accepted. A previous public hearing had been closed, but new documents were released afterward by the county.

They also asked the court to take additional testimony about worker health protections and to reconsider air-quality data submitted by Dutra, contending that the calculations the county relied upon were erroneous.

Deputy Sonoma County Counsel Jeff Brax said the court sought no further information from either side before issuing a one-sentence ruling.

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