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Neighbors wary as ACC takes a step back from concrete plant

Wednesday, May 5, 2021 by Jo Clifton

After hearing numerous complaints from neighbors of Austin Community College’s Pinnacle campus in Oak Hill, the ACC Board of Trustees approved a new resolution Monday night specifically excluding the use of the campus for a concrete batch plant.

The board approved a resolution last month that appeared to authorize negotiations for placing the plant on the campus.

The resolution does authorize the chancellor to negotiate an agreement with Colorado River Constructors to use the vacant building and parking lots for the Highway 290 widening project. Only Trustee Julie Ann Nitsch voted against the resolution. Neighbors Paul Robbins, Carol Cespedes and Cynthia Wilcox all praised her stand, calling her a hero. Nitsch represents Place 9, which includes the area.

Residents who have been involved in trying to convince the ACC board not to allow the contractors to disturb their neighborhood told the Austin Monitor they are still concerned about the noise, air pollution and other ills such an operation might bring to Oak Hill. They also believe that neither ACC nor the contractor have given up on the idea of putting the plant on college property.

The resolution states that any agreement “must include a community engagement plan and come before the board again before any contract is executed.”

Wilcox, president of the Oak Hill Association of Neighborhoods, told the Monitor that although Colorado River Constructors had started out “saying that all they were asking for now was to use the building for offices and the parking lot for trucks,” company manager Laurie Simmons said CRC would be seeking a zoning change for the property in order to allow the batch plant to be located there.

Wilcox said there had been no public discussion about how much money CRC was promising the college for the use of its campus and that the community around Pinnacle campus would certainly not benefit.

Robbins spoke to the board Tuesday via Zoom, pointing out that the road for access to the heavy equipment storage yard would only be about 25 feet from nearby apartment units. “The equipment storage yard is only about 70 feet away (and) the materials storage yard, which will probably contain aggregates and possibly even chemicals, is only 250 feet away,” he said, based on a map provided by CRC.

The map, Robbins said, “shows how insensitive the contractor is. Can you imagine trying to live next to a site like this that can theoretically operate 24 hours a day with loud equipment, backup hazard beeps, diesel pollution, probable wind-blown aggregate, and possibly even chemical smells?”

Robbins also complained about the disruption to the neighborhood from “dust pollution, diesel pollution, light pollution, noise pollution, and traffic problems” caused by this project.

“The word cruelty is the only thing that comes to mind,” he said.

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