Firm appeals Prince William board's denial of asphalt plant

By Jennifer Buske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 29, 2010

Finley Asphalt and Sealing has filed an appeal in Prince William County Circuit Court against the county supervisors' decision last month to prevent it from building an asphalt mixing plant in the western part of the county.

The appeal, filed Aug. 20, says the Prince William Board of County Supervisors' denial of Finley's special-use permit application was "arbitrary and capricious" and not fairly debatable. The appeal requests that the court declare the board's decision "illegal, void and of no effect."

Although the appeal has been recorded in the courts, the county has not been served with it, Finley attorney Gifford Hampshire said, noting that he plans to do that after Labor Day. County officials said they are confident the board is in a good legal position. Officials said they could not comment further because it is a pending legal matter.

Finley filed an application almost two years ago to build an asphalt mixing facility near several Linton Hall area neighborhoods and the county's prized Innovation @ Prince William Technology Park. The plan, which was approved by county staff and the Planning Commission, was deferred by the board last year because of concerns from residents and business owners. After a year of public outreach, Finley went back to the board last month, only to be met with a unanimous vote to deny the plant.

The appeal states Finley purchased the land at 9514 Hornbaker Rd. in 2008 after Supervisor W.S. Covington III (R-Brentsville) told Finley that " 'Prince William County was open for business' for the operation of an asphalt plant on the property." According to the appeal, Finley told Covington his specific plans for the property, and Covington assured him there would be no pushback from businesses at Innovation, which turned out not to be true.

Covington did not respond to a phone message seeking comment.

According to the appeal, the property is zoned for industrial use, and Finley made several alterations to its plan to make the plant "less intense" than what is allowed. The board's decision was "arbitrary and capricious because there was no factual basis for its findings that noise, odor and heavy truck traffic" would have a harmful effect on the technology park, the appeal says.

Finley is also challenging the board's decision because the company thinks it is being discriminated against. Two other asphalt plants already exist at Innovation park, the appeal says. County officials said last month that two other plants in the Innovation sector plan but that they were there before the plan was drafted.

Supervisors denied Finley's proposal after hearing from almost 100 speakers, almost half of whom were in favor of the plant. When voting, supervisors said they were concerned that the plant would affect the growth of Innovation, and residents who spoke against it said they were mainly concerned that the plant could harm their families' health.

During last month's meeting, company President Erick Finley said the plant would be "cleaner, greener" and "set new environmental standards." The plant's emissions would be lower than the limits set by the Environmental Protection Agency, Finley officials said.

Hampshire said landowners who are aggrieved by the board's decision have up to 30 days to appeal. After the appeal is served to the county, Prince William will have 21 days to respond. Hampshire said he could not comment further because it is a pending case.

"I feel comfortable the board of supervisors made the right decision," Supervisor Frank J. Principi (D-Woodbridge) said. "This is why this is a great country, because Mr. Finley can appeal this, have his day in court, and we can move on."

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