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Proposed asphalt plant draws dissent from hospital president, area residents

Progress West

Progress West Hospital in O’Fallon

A proposed asphalt cement plant near Progress West Hospital in O’Fallon might prompt job cuts there and impact the future of the facility.

That’s according to Larry Tracy, the president of BJC Healthcare’s St. Charles County hospitals – Barnes-Jewish St. Peters Hospital and Progress West. Tracy spoke to the St. Charles County Council during the public comment portion of its Feb. 29 meeting.

Breckenridge Material Company is seeking a conditional use permit and rezoning from agricultural to heavy industrial to allow an asphalt cement plant on three acres at 175 Miller Road near a commuter lot. The site is in an unincorporated area on the north side of Miller School Road, approximately 2,200 feet north and east of South Hwy. 94, at the southwest quadrant of Hwy. 94 and Interstate 64. It is surrounded on three sides by the August A. Busch Wildlife Area.

The county’s planning and zoning commission recommended approval of the CUP and rezoning after a prolonged discussion at its Feb. 17 meeting. The council is expected to take that recommendation under consideration at its March 14 meeting.

Tracy said the plant would be within 1,000 feet of the hospital, located off Hwy. K north of its intersection with I-64. He called locating the plant there “simply a bad idea” for several reasons. Specifically, he predicted that vulnerable patients would have absolutely no interest in seeking medical care from a facility near the plant and subject to fumes. The hospital cannot mitigate those fumes, he said.

He said a second reason comes down to jobs. “If patients aren’t willing to come to the hospital, if patients are unwilling to see their doctor, there won’t be any jobs at Progress West Hospital. There won’t be occupants in medical office buildings. And in good conscience, I won’t recommend to BJC Healthcare that we continue to invest in that facility,” he said. “So, to me, it’s very simple – it’s about taking care of people and about preserving jobs in St. Charles County and especially in O’Fallon at Progress West Hospital.”

Jim Gerardot, president of the Weldon Spring Homeowners Association, a subdivision of about 200 homes approximately three miles from the proposed plant site, said trucks and traffic from the site pose a threat to drivers, fumes may pose possible health risks, and the plant may hurt property values.

“We don’t feel the pros outweigh the cons on the location of this plant,” Gerardot said. He also said the plant might have a negative impact on the wildlife area.

“One of the reasons I love this community is the ability to go down and have a picnic with my family and fish in the area,” Gerardot said.

Meanwhile, Weldon Spring’s Board of Aldermen approved a resolution in February protesting the rezoning and CUP. The proposed plant is within 1.5 miles of its city’s limits.

The resolution states that the city believes the county should comply with its 2025 Master Plan and the proposed rezoning is “out of step with the city of Weldon Spring’s future land use plans for the adjacent and surrounding area.” The resolution also objects to possible odor and noise from the plant, which would be “obtrusive” and a “deterrent” to the local character of the area.

At the county P&Z meeting on Feb. 17, Andrew Arnold, representing Breckenridge Materials, said it was unlikely that any odor from asphalt would reach any of the surrounding businesses and the smell dissipates a few hundred yards away. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency would regulate any emissions, as well as operating hours and noise.

Arnold said the company is a family-owned business that has been in the construction business for 90 years and has a quarry in Defiance. It’s important that asphalt plants be located close to where it would be used because it hardens quickly, he added, and the Miller School Road site has good highway access.

In 2014 and 2015, a temporary concrete batch plant used the property during construction along I-64. But the county’s planning staff told the commission that the site has been historically zoned agricultural and is proposed as parks and open space in the county’s 2025 Master Plan.

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