Saturday, August 18, 2001

Group sues gypsum plant 2nd time

Private council meetings void permits, residents say

By Terry Flynn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        SILVER GROVE — A group of citizens upset over gypsum dust filtering into their homes on Ky. 8 has filed a second lawsuit against the Lafarge Gypsum Co. plant and the city of Silver Grove in an attempt to revoke the plant's zoning permit.

        Attorney Brandon Voelker represents several Silver Grove residents who live across the street from the nation's largest drywall plant, near the Ohio River. He filed the action Friday in Campbell Circuit Court, charging that the city conducted illegal meetings to amend a zoning ordinance.

        Named in the suit are the city of Silver Grove, Mayor Carl Schwarber, City Clerk Kay Wright, the Campbell County Municipal Planning and Zoning Commission, Lafarge Corp. and Cardinal Engineering.

[photo] The Lafarge plant uses gypsum to produce drywall.
(Enquirer file photo)
| ZOOM |
        A civil complaint against Lafarge, filed this spring by Mr. Voelker for the same clients, claims the company permitted the gypsum dust to blow across Ky. 8 and cause property damage and health hazards. That suit is pending in Campbell Circuit Court.

        Justin Verst, who is the Campbell County attorney and the city attorney for Silver Grove, said Friday he could not comment on the suit because he had not seen a copy of it.

        Attorney William Robinson, who represents Lafarge, also said he could not comment until he had the opportunity to study the suit.

        The suit alleges the city council held special meetings Jan. 12-13, 2000, and conducted first and second readings on an ordinance amending the city's zoning ordinance to permit manufacturing on the property where Lafarge was to build its plant. The property was not previously zoned for manufacturing.

        The suit claims the city did not make adequate notice of the meetings to permit public comment on the proposed amendment, and therefore the meetings were illegal under requirements of the Kentucky Revised Statutes.

        “The city wanted Lafarge to build the plant, and they weren't concerned whether the citizens were informed as to exactly what the plant would bring with it,” Mr. Voelker said.

        The Lafarge plant, which employs 100 people, officially opened in July 2000. It is owned by the Lafarge Group, a French company that is the largest manufacturer of building materials in the world.

        The suit asks that the ordinance amending the zoning regulations be declared null and void, that the city and its officials be enjoined from further violations, and that the plaintiffs be awarded unspecified compensatory damages.

        Lafarge also must deal with a series of air pollution violations brought by the Division of Air Quality of the Kentucky Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Cabinet. The company is accused of permitting gypsum dust to escape from its property, and of not supplying the proper information for its state permits.


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