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IT'S OFFICIAL: No asphalt plant coming to Sahuarita

Concerned citizens group take a breath after 15 months of vocal opposition
No asphalt plant in Sahuarita
Posted at 6:32 PM, Apr 25, 2024

SAHUARITA, Ariz. (KGUN) — Applause, cheers and smiling faces filled Sahuarita's Town Hall Wednesday evening — the crowd's energy the complete opposite what it was back in a January meeting.

It's been 15 months since Vulcan Materials Inc. submitted a conditional use permit (CUP) application to the town of Sahuarita for a hot mix asphalt plant. That chapter is now closed.

The town council announced it will not allow a plant which would have sat about a half-mile from growing neighborhoods.

Rather than making a formal vote on the application, Council members came to an agreement with Vulcan in, what they say is, the best interest of all parties, including the community.

The agreement states that Vulcan or any other future owner of the property will never be able to operate an asphalt plant in that location.

“Vulcan and the town were at the table and we stayed at that table until we found that path forward,” said Town Manager Shane Dille.

Worries voiced by the local activist group formed from this process, the Concerned Citizens of Sahuarita (CCS), included decreased home values, ground water contamination, and overall health and safety risks.

The unanimous decision prompted once-firey residents to apologize for harsh words and thank the council for taking their concerns to heart.

"There were tears of joy." "This is a wonderful, wonderful day," a few said.

“Thank you all for your…professionalism, your patience and your genuine concern for all of your constituents,” Resident Lee Staab said, choking back tears.

Although an asphalt plant is forever off the table, Vulcan can still expand its current gravel mining work.

"Vulcan looks forward to continuing to be in operation for sometime," Greg Harris, a lawyer representing Vulcan, said at the special meeting. "And to be able to continue to provide the materials that provide for the infrastructure, development and maintenance that are important to this town’s growth and vitality.”

There are 19 asphalt facilities in Arizona alone, and many more throughout the country — even outside the U.S.

A town spokesperson said the majority of those properties were operational before residential communities came in. In this case, it was different because Sahuarita neighborhoods were there first.

“All the things that make Quail Creek and Sahuarita a great place to live is there, and it’s going to stay there,” said CCS Member Carl Larsen.

Council members said they were certain an approval of the plant would have led to litigation and a poor relationship between residents, the town and Vulcan — a group creating jobs for Sahuarita.

"We love our mining community and that will continue as we move forward," Murphy explained. "Residents came, we listened, and I think it’s a win-win at the end of the day."

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Mikenzie Hammel joined the KGUN 9 team as a multimedia journalist in the summer of 2023. She graduated from Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism with her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. With her passion for human connection and visual storytelling, Mikenzie is honored to share the stories of Tucson and southeastern Arizona. Share your story ideas and important issues with Mikenzie by emailing mikenzie.hammel@kgun9.com.