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Brazil Residents Concerned About Asphalt Plant Moving In

O’Mara Contractors is planning on building an asphalt plant in Brazil, but residents are not happy about it.

Despite objections from some Clay County residents, officials in Brazil say they do not have legal standing to prevent a North Vernon-based company from locating an asphalt plant there.

“You’ve got small children and elderly people in the area and that’s the ones toxins go after first.”

The proposed site of the plant has long been zoned for industrial use. A brick factory and a metal foundry previously occupied the space, which today sits empty and is full of decaying buildings. The property backs up to Eric Stearley’s property and he says he is worried about the pollution an asphalt plant would cause – not just to him, but to his neighbors.

Stearley points out Northview High School is only about half a mile down the road and says the company asking to build the plant, Dave O’Mara Contractors, has been cited by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management for air, water and wastewater pollution violations in the past. So Stearley wants the land re-zoned. Still, he insists he is not opposed to the company building in more rural areas of the county.

“I don’t have any problem,” he says. “If we need asphalt, fine, but put it away from people.”

Brazil Planning Director Stacy Gibbens points out Clay County does not zone land itself, but the city is given jurisdiction over all property within two miles of its borders. However, she adds that the only power the city has over that outlying area is zoning power.

And since the land is already zoned for industrial use, she thinks it is unlikely the city has the power to stop O’Mara Contractors from building the plant. Repeated calls to O’Mara officials seeking comment for this story went unreturned Thursday and Friday.

The plant is currently on hold as O’Mara officials seek a correction to an earlier permit application which would have located the plant not behind Eric Stearley’s property, but adjacent to it, on top of a neighbor’s pole barn.

Stan Jastrzebski

WFIU/WTIU News Senior Editor Stan Jastrzebski spent time as a reporter with WGN Radio in Chicago and as an editor at Network Indiana, an Indianapolis news service. Stan is the winner of awards from the Associated Press, the RTDNA, the Indiana Broadcasters Association and the Society of Professional Journalists. He hosts WFIU's Ask the Mayor and anchors WTIU's InFocus.

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