Birchwood Subdivision Concerns
As a resident of Bethel’s Birchwood subdivision for the past six years, we have concerns regarding an asphalt plant operating by the Bethel Airport. For those unfamiliar with Birchwood, it is land that directly abuts the airport.
Our concerns began last summer when our neighborhood experienced a strong, unfamiliar diesel smell on several occasions. Following an investigation, we learned it was coming from the Asphalt Plant. The smell we experienced would best be described as an offensive burning smell. Initially we were concerned it could be coming from a neighborhood home and went searching for the source. During our search, we met other neighbors also concerned over the foreign odor searching for the source. The odor was so bad on several occasions it forced us to leave our home to go visit friends. On other occasions it forced us to close windows to attempt to keep the smell at bay.
Allowing the Asphalt Plant into a part of the town where there are many residences and subdivisions impacts the quality of life and environment of the residents who live and vacation there. The odor is quite distinct and came as a huge surprise to us.
The town has an ordinance that limits offensive odors from leaving its borders. The Asphalt Plant violates the Odor Ordinance. Based on the ordinance, the town and/or planning board should have never allowed the Asphalt Plant to be located where it is today and should not permit it to move to a new location across the street on North Road.
In researching our town's zoning laws, we have learned that one of the reasons our town has no zoning is because it has steadfast ordinances that are protecting the health and property values of residents.
As residents directly affected by the odor, we will be actively working with other residents who are concerned with this issue as well as with our town manager, Jim Doar, to ensure that the Planning Board is well versed on the ordinance and its intent of protection to the residents living within the area the odor is capable of traveling and the effect it has upon property values of those residents.
This plant has had, and will continue to have, a direct effect upon economic opportunities if it is allowed to operate in its current location. This concern is not just from residents living near the plant. It may well be your concern as well if you depend upon people visiting Bethel to spend their money with your business; the odor will encourage these visitors to make other vacation choices if the strong stench of diesel, oil and asphalt continues to plague our town.
In closing, ordinances are not only there to protect residents but businesses, like the Asphalt Plant to limit plausible complaints. The town/planning board should be working with businesses during the permit process such as this to find suitable locations that abide by the town’s ordinances.
I urge all residents of Bethel to participate in the planning board meeting on Wednesday, March 9, at 7 p.m. and call your town manager and selectmen and let them know how you feel.