WENDEN — A proposed aluminum plant in La Paz County got a thumbs-down from a La Paz County planning committee on Wednesday.
The La Paz County Planning & Zoning Commission voted against the proposed aluminum recycling smelter near the community of Wenden. At the end of a three-hour meeting held in Wenden, the commission voted to recommend the County Board of Supervisors reject a change to the county’s comprehensive plan to allow for the smelter to be built at its proposed location. Should the supervisors vote to approve the change to the plan, the commission recommended they not approve a zoning change for the smelter.
The final say on the plant rests with the supervisors.
The meeting was held at the Centennial Community Center between Wenden and Salome so residents of the area would not have to travel to Parker to make their voices heard. District 3 Supervisor Holly Irwin arranged for the meeting to be held at the Centennial Center. The meeting was held before a packed house.
Alliance Metals, the company behind the proposed plant, criticized the commission’s decision Thursday in a news release. The company was critical of a decision to hold the meeting in Wenden, instead of the county seat in Parker, arguing the county was attempting to “stack the deck against bringing new jobs and increased tax revenue to the county.”
The smelter, if approved, would be located on U.S. 60, near the entrance to Centennial Park. The property was once home to a large cotton gin.
Tom Galvin, an attorney for the Rose Law Group and a spokesperson for Alliance Metals, told the commission Alliance wants to spend $30 million on the project, and they will create good, well-paying jobs. He said recycling aluminum is more environmentally friendly than mining for new aluminum. He noted the county currently receives $8,700 in property taxes from the site each year. He said the smelter would increase that to $66,000. He estimated an additional $230,000 over the next 10 years for Wenden Elementary School.
Galvin said Alliance’s planned safeguards against possible releases of hazardous materials went well beyond the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality’s regulations.
Major Kindesfater, an environmental consultant for the company, said Alliance’s emissions would be within the limits set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and ADEQ.
The two company representatives were followed by a parade of speakers who spoke out against the proposed smelter. Their objections included having a facility handling and storing hazardous materials so close to residential areas.
There were also concerns over releases of hazardous materials and the effect emissions would have on nearby agricultural operations, including fruit and nut trees.
Many speakers noted the comprehensive plan called for the preservation of the agricultural character of the McMullen Valley. They said the smelter would be incompatible with agricultural uses in the area.