DEM Rejects Concrete Plant Application

There are a few steps in the right direction happening for the Stop the Concrete Plant movement in Cranston — the Department of Environmental Management has rejected the concrete plant’s permit to build and the City Council has passed an ordinance giving them the power to block permits for cement plants. From the Projo:

CRANSTON — Ignoring objections from Mayor Stephen P. Laffey and the city solicitor, the City Council last night adopted an ordinance giving itself the power to overrule the Building Department if it issues a certificate of occupancy for any asphalt, cement or concrete plant the council opposes.

The measure was endorsed by the Ordinance Committee on Nov. 16 following a long debate over whether the council has the legal authority to intervene in the issuance of a certificate of occupancy. Last night, the ordinance was approved by the full council, in an 8-to-1 vote, only minutes after it was introduced.

“We have the right,� pronounced council President Aram G. Garabedian.

Earlier this year the council prohibited construction of any new plants that manufacture these materials, so the broad policy approved last night actually affects a single project: a concrete-batching facility that Cullion Concrete Corp. hopes to operate on Marine Drive.

The Building Department approved that project in March, setting off a tireless campaign by residents and council members to reverse the decision or identify other ways to block construction. The plant is 40 percent complete, but construction was halted pending the resolution of a challenge to the building permit before the Zoning Board of Review.

Cullion recently sued the city for $1 million, arguing that the council has improperly interfered in the Building Department’s operations. That lawsuit cited the potential passage of the ordinance approved last night as an example of council misconduct.

Robert D. Murray, a lawyer for Cullion, suggested last night that the council’s actions had strengthened the lawsuit.

“I don’t think it’s the last word on it,� Murray said following the vote.

Through a spokeswoman, Laffey declined to comment on the ordinance, citing the litigation. But his top ally on the council, Republican Allan W. Fung, renewed his own objections before casting the sole dissenting vote.

“I’m opposed to having that concrete-batching facility at this location,� said Fung, a lawyer and former prosecutor in the state attorney general’s office, “but we’re exceeding our authority in the permitting area.�

The ordinance was not the only setback for Cullion yesterday. The state Department of Environmental Management announced that it had rejected the company’s request to modify a permit already granted to allow construction of the concrete-batching plant.

In a letter, the state’s chief of ground-water and wetlands protection, Russell J. Chateauneuf, advised that the company submit a new application – a process Murray said the company had already begun.

Paula B. McFarland, the council vice president, praised the DEM decision, saying the proposed facility threatens the nearby Pawtuxet River, necessitating advanced systems for filtration and storm run-off management. “You’re dealing with wildlife and our environment,� she said.

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One response

  1. I have a real problem with Allen Fung saying, on the one hand, that he’s against the plant, and on the other, that he’s against the Council assuming veto power in the future.

    Where was the oversight on this application? Maybe Mr. Fung should ask Steve Laffey why the original application was approved in 11 business days. It’s this kind of incompetence by the Laffey squad that requires better Council oversight — if they had done a better job in the first place, perhaps they wouldn’t need babysitters.

    …and if it’s possible, Kiersten, would you mind opening a thread on the belated resolution of the Mayor’s race? Thanks in advance.

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