I know that all of you have been wondering what has been happening with Alliance Metals application for rezoning so, here is what I can tell you.
There seems to be a misconception regarding the cancellation of the January 13th Supervisors meeting.
Alliance has not withdrawn their application. Alliance has not abandoned their project. Alliance fully intends to proceed with the Supervisor meeting in order to get their application approved.
In late December, I was contacted by Duce Minor to see if I and Alliance, Rose Law/PR Group would meet with him.
To help with background:
- Duce Minor: Supervisor for District 2 who requested the meeting.
- Jason Rose: Owner and head of Rose PR Rose+Moser+Allyn, and husband of Jordan Rose, owner and head of Rose Law Firm.
- Thomas Galvin: Rose Law Firm Attorney Specializing in Land Use.
- Loren Barton: VP of Alliance Metals and sole employee.
- Myself, Gary Saiter: President of Wenden School Board, Chairman and Manager of Wenden Domestic Water Improvement District.
- Dan Berg: Salome resident and contributing researcher and writer.
Duce asked if we were willing to meet with him so he could get a better understanding of the project and its ramifications and we (parties attending) were told that we could bring one other person to the meeting. I accepted the meeting. (It was scheduled for late December in Parker) Tom Galvin, of course, chose his client Loren Barton to attend with him and I chose Dan Berg, from Salome, who many of you know has spent an enormous amount of time in researching and fighting this project. Our hope was that we could convince Duce to vote against the smelter.
During this first meeting it became clear that Rose and Alliance had decided to do what they should have been doing from the very beginning and that is listening to the community. They came offering concessions to answer as many of the community’s concerns as they could with the goal of convincing the Supervisors to vote to approve this project. The first item that they offered was to eliminate the use of chlorine.
While that does in fact make the smelter safer, it does not alter the fact that there will still be pollution, there is a risk of flooding in this location, there will be a considerable amount of traffic generated, the facility will still produce salt cake as a by product and in the end it is still a heavy industrial facility.
After about two hours they asked Duce if we could meet again and they would be prepared to present more developed proposals. We all agreed to meet again in two weeks, which just happened to be the date the Supervisor meeting was originally scheduled for, January 13th. They also asked that the Supervisor meeting be postponed.
This time we met in Wenden. This meeting also lasted about two hours and Alliance/Rose presented their ideas. It became obvious during this meeting that Duce was wholeheartedly in support of the smelter and was looking for a way to get it approved although he said that he was uncommitted to the smelter but was for development.
He seems to be more than willing to undermine our Supervisor and the residents of this community.
It also became obvious that there was more work that Alliance/Rose needed to do to be prepared to address the community. I was very clear with them that other than representing the Wenden Water Board and the Elementary School Board, I did not represent the community as a whole. If I were no longer here, they would still be getting stiff opposition. I explained to them that if they wanted to get the community to consider their concessions then they were going to have to face the community and try. Again after two hours, we decided to meet again but this time not until February 4th.
After the meeting with Alliance/Rose, Dan and I met with Duce. I wanted to have a better understanding of why he felt that this was a good development for our community especially in the light of such overwhelming opposition.
He stated that he felt it was good for the county and that if the county did not do something to aid development that our communities of Wenden and Salome would eventually die.
We immediately corrected him on this impression and stressed the fact that he simply did not know McMullen Valley. We do not need nor want the county to “save” us.
This goes back to one of my earlier comments regarding representative government. Elected officials are supposed to represent the voter’s/residents opinions and that means that if something like this is opposed by most of the community then they should honor that opinion.
It is not in the job description of an elected official to play “Dad” and decide what is best for us whether we want it or not.
In any event, we did not seem to make much progress in swaying his opinion.
The third meeting was held with pretty much the same outcome but with more refined proposals from Alliance/Rose and Duce continuing to try and figure out a way to make this happen. He felt that Alliance needed to revise their application and resubmit it to Planning and Zoning. Here is what we expect to happen.
- First, Alliance/Rose will be sending a letter to the residents of Wenden and Salome. This letter will explain the changes and commitments they are making to their plans.
- Next, by the end of February, Loren Barton, Alliance Metals Senior VP will be holding open houses in both Salome and Wenden. This is their attempt to speak directly to the community about their plans. We need to make sure that those are well attended and I will let you all know when they are scheduled as soon as I know. We need to express how we feel about the smelter being located here especially in light of the concessions they propose to make.
- A probable new review by Planning and Zoning.
- Alliance Metal’s application will be put on the agenda for an upcoming Supervisor meeting and a decision will be made how to handle their application.
It seems that Duce has become the champion for this project as he has met with Community Development to try and get Alliance back on the schedule for P&Z prior to the Board of Supervisors meeting on March 16th. Alliance/Rose is attempting to get their application on the agenda for that Supervisor meeting. Legal precedent dictates that the Supervisors hear the new application and then refer it back to P&Z for review prior to it being presented to the Supervisors for a final decision.
There are moral and ethical issues surrounding two Supervisors being able and willing to make a decision that affects another Supervisors district and the residents of a community where they have no vested interest. That having been said, there is also a significant legal issue.
The county has the ability to hold Alliance to any stipulations they want to prior to issuing an approval for this type of zoning request. Once it is approved however, there is no legal recourse to hold them to those stipulations without a Conditional Use Permit. You can’t take away zoning, but you can take away a permit to operate if the stipulations are violated. Alliance cancelled their application for a CUP several months ago because they realized that it would require a unanimous vote for approval and they knew they would not get that.
The reason a unanimous vote is required is because aluminum smelting does not appear in the county’s zoning regulations. If it did then only a 2/3rds vote would be required. So, if this is approved without a CUP, then the county has no legal recourse to enforce any stipulations that Alliance has agreed to in the event the stipulations are violated.
So now what? If you continue to be opposed to heavy industry coming to McMullen Valley then here’s what you can do.
- Write emails and make phone calls to Duce Minor. He will be the swing vote. Tell him how you feel. Make sure that you copy the other supervisors.
- Attend both of the open houses that Alliance plans. I will announce the where and when as soon as we know. It is also supposed to be in the letter Alliance/Rose is sending to the community. It doesn’t matter if you live in Salome or Wenden, try and attend both of them so there as many people attending as possible and tell Loren how you feel about the smelter.
- Plan on attending the P&Z meeting when it is scheduled to let them know one more time how you feel about this development. We will notify you when it is scheduled.
- Most important is that you plan on attending the Supervisor meeting when Alliance’s application will be considered. We will let you when it is scheduled.
If you need follow this link to our “What Can You Do” page and scroll down to find the contact information for all three supervisors.
Please visit our site frequently during this critical period for updates and meeting notices.