Lawsuit seeks to block asphalt plant

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ROCKTON - The Rockton School district and 15 Rockton residents have filed a lawsuit in Winnebago County Circuit Court challenging the Winnebago County Board's decision to allow an asphalt plant in Rockton Township.

The lawsuit also seeks a preliminary injunction to bring an immediate halt to all activities regarding locating the asphalt production facility in Rockton Township.

Over strong objections from area citizens, the Winnebago County Board approved a special use permit for Northern Illinois Service Company for the asphalt plant on June 14 by a thin 10-9 vote.

The Rockton School District purchased several acres of agricultural land in 2009 with the intention of building a new school. This land is less than a half mile from the asphalt plant site. The Rockton School District also operates Stephen Mack Middle School, which is less than a mile from the asphalt plant site. Because of these factors, the Rockton School District Board of Education unanimously voted to oppose the asphalt plant site in Rockton Township, according to a news release.

The 15 residents who are party to the lawsuit all live adjacent to or within a mile of the asphalt plant site.

The County Zoning Board of Appeals recommended approval of the special use permit for the project with certain conditions by a 6-1 vote in April. On May 23, the county's Zoning Committee voted 6-0 recommending no approval for the permit. However, on June 14, the full county board reversed that decision and approved the permit.

The plan for an asphalt plant at Blacks Quarry at 11200 N. Main St. has been an issue that has gone before county and village boards for about two years with a large vocal group of residents opposing the plan.

Rockton School District Superintendent Glenn Terry said the district has been involved in opposing the plant for the past year-and-a-half.

"All of our schools are within a mile and a half of the proposed plant and all in the direction of the prevailing winds," Terry said. "Any air pollutants would affect our kids and we have kids who have asthma and other respiratory issues that are prevalent in any school."

Terry also noted the district owns land almost directly across from where the plant will be located. A school may be built there in the future as the district continues its rapid growth trend.

"We are concerned being so close to the plant as far as air pollution and traffic. There will be an increase in truck traffic on that road," Terry said.

Currently, Terry said parents and buses use Highway 2 to get to Stephen Mack Middle School and there already is a lot of truck traffic.

Terry also stressed the district is not using taxpayer money to fund its involvement to oppose the plant.

"It's important for the community to know," he said.

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