Hundreds of east Louisville residents voiced their opposition Thursday night to a concrete mixing plant already being constructed near a residential subdivision in the Lake Forest neighborhood.
The company Sunshine Concrete gained approval from the Metro Development Review Committee earlier this year to build the plant at 13905 Aiken Road. The site is directly across the street from a subdivision with roughly 1,700 residents and less than a mile down the street from Stopher Elementary School.
Neighbors packed into Pleasant Grove Baptist Church for a meeting that quickly became standing room only. District 19 Council Member Anthony Piagentini hosted the meeting, and those in attendance were not required to give their names before they spoke.
One long-time resident of the neighborhood, who identified herself only as Valerie, said she was concerned about the health impact of the concrete mixing plant on the children living nearby.
“We could have had a park on that land, we could have had a million different things, but now we’re looking at cancer,” she said. “It’s called down wind, people. Learn that term. Not a single person here is safe.”
Other nearby residents expressed concerns about how dust and cancer-causing particulates moving off the property would be monitored.
“How will we be able to identify the microcosm [of pollutants] across the street?” one neighbor asked.
Concrete mix contains sand, aggregate and a small amount of fly ash from burning coal. The particulates that can escape the worksite, known as “fugitive dust,” can be carcinogenic.
Speaking at the meeting was Rachael Hamilton, director of the Metro Air Pollution Control District. Hamilton assured residents that concrete would be mixed with water and that would mostly be done in the trucks to limit the risk of fugitive dust flying into residential neighborhoods.
But residents balked when Hamilton said the monitoring would be done by Sunshine Concrete themselves.
“There will be associated record-keeping, reporting and monitoring that the company will do,” to ensure it complies with the Board’s standards, she said.
The bulk of the criticism from neighbors was focused on the fact that Sunshine Concrete gained approval from the Metro Planning Commission’s Design Review Committee on March 12. Because the property has been zoned for industrial use since 1982 and didn’t require a rezoning, elected representatives on Metro Council have no say over whether the plant gets built.
Sunshine Concrete is owned by local home builder Damon Garrett, who also lives in the nearby Lake Forest subdivision. Seated with two of his lawyers, Garrett repeatedly refused to comment at Thursday night’s meeting.
In a written statement to other news outlets, the company said it would comply with all relevant regulations.
“All air pollution control regulations will be followed or exceeded, with state of the art air filtration systems being employed,” Sunshine Concrete told WHAS 11. “Additionally, landscape buffers will be utilized to further shield the primary operations.
In this case, Sunshine Concrete was required to mail postcard notifications to 44 individuals prior to the Design Review Committee’s final vote on the project. But many of the people who expected to receive notice, including Pleasant Grove Baptist Church Pastor Louis Hume, said that never happened.
“I think you already violated part of your legal position when you didn’t notify the ‘Tier 1’ residents, which I think should stall this [development] until such time that everyone has a chance to say something,” one neighbor said to the city officials in attendance.
Residents pointed to the March 12 meeting, where one member of the Design Review Committee said he was “a little surprised” no one from the neighborhood showed up to oppose the concrete mixing plant.
Emily Liu, who heads Louisville Metro’s Department of Planning and Design, said Sunshine Concrete submitted postage labels to the city alongside a sworn affidavit saying the notices were sent out.
Piagentini, who represents the district where the concrete mixing plant is set to be built, said he understood the frustration many residents expressed. But he said there is no mechanism for reversing the Planning Commission’s approval.
“That process, from an administrative point of view, is over, but anything can be litigated,” he said.
Piagentini encouraged residents to make their voices heard through the only administrative avenue left for them: the Air Pollution Control District permitting process. In the coming weeks, officials from APCD said they’ll release a proposed permit for Sunshine Concrete that includes mitigation requirements for any dust or pollution. Residents will be able to comment on whether the requirements and standards are enough.
City officials at the meeting encourage anyone interested in providing feedback to the APCD to sign up for alerts here.