On split vote, Planning Commission says proposed plant can exceed noise limit at certain locations

On a 3-2 vote on May 21 the commission said noise from barge operations at the proposed plant will be allowed even though it exceeds current standards in the county?s General Plan.

The affected locations are two riverside residences near the Petaluma Boulevard South plant and a spot along the Petaluma River trail at Shollenberger Park, across from the project site.

Noise from the barge-offloading operations can?t be reduced to a less-than-significant level, county staff said, prompting the special Planning Commission hearing.

The commission previously recommended approval of the project to county supervisors, who indicated during a straw vote in February that they plan to approve the project if certain conditions are met.

Raw material that is barged to the site for the production of asphalt will not be unloaded at night, the county said. It will also not be permitted during nesting season for nearby birds.

Sound from the plant is not expected to impact baby herons and egrets at a rookery near the site, planning staff said, though wildlife advocates have disagreed.

The May 21 hearing at the county complex in Santa Rosa followed an April meeting, when commissioners took public comments but postponed their final decision.

Public comment wasn?t taken at the May 21 meeting, but project opponent David Keller caused a brief interruption when he turned on a vacuum cleaner that he claimed sounds similar to noise created at the plant.

Commission Chair Dick Fogg warned Keller that if he interrupted again, the sheriff?s department would be called.

?With all due respect, Commissioner Fogg, that is the equivalent of the sound you are being asked to allow,? Keller said.

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