Parents, homeowners organize to keep concrete plant away from school

Students often eat outside at Hill Country Montessori School, and parents fear a concrete plant proposed about 2,000 feet away would come with dust and health risks. (Photo: Sinclair Broadcast Group)

Parents and homeowners in the Hill Country are organizing to fight a proposed concrete plant that the company says is needed to keep up with growth.

Vulcan Material Company is applying for permits to build about 2,000 feet from Hill Country Montessori School. Both are off Highway 46 east of Boerne.

“We are concerned about the health of our children here in our school,” said Steve Whewell, head of school, adding: “We do believe that the winds will carry those small dust particles to our campus.”

Photo shows reporter Michael Locklear alongside Steve Whewell, who leads Hill Country Montessori School.

Toni Lott echoed health concerns for her 9-year-old daughter Avery, who attends the school and takes medicine for severe allergies.

“I don't see how the school could survive it, I really don't,” Lott said, “because there's a lot of parents like myself that would pull their kids out of school.”

The scenery is a large part of the appeal for families of the 101 students who attend, ranging from 18 months old to eighth grade, according to Whewell.

“Every classroom has a garden,” Whewell said. “Kids are outside all the time as part of our curriculum.”

In a statement, company spokesman Scott Burnham said: “At Vulcan, we strive to be a good neighbor and do things the right way. We will operate the facility in a safe and responsible manner and work with our neighbors to create a thoughtful, community-minded plan. We will employ the latest technologies designed to protect air quality, water resources and the health and well being of our neighbors and the communities we serve. We will meet or exceed regulations and guidelines set by local, state and federal laws, including TCEQ and TXDot.”

The facility would be named Boerne Ready Mix.

Burnham said he’s seen misinformation online and clarified plans by providing these details:

The property is 34 acres, with the facility comprising less than one-third of the property. (It will be located in the northwest quadrant – many of the unofficial diagrams I’ve seen show it near the school.)
It will be located nearly a half mile from the school.
Approximately seven full-time employees
In the first five years, it will have approximately five mixing trucks, each making four to five deliveries a day.
Larger property and existing trees and natural buffer vegetation will screen facility and absorb ambient noise.
Using the latest technology, our air capture and filtration system will capture and control dust.
The entrance off Highway 46 will be paved to prevent track out.
To be clear, this is a concrete batch facility. There will be NO blasting, rock crushing or cement production (kiln)

Tim Young, who lives across the street from the proposed facility, put out a sign along Highway 46 on Thursday afternoon that read “NO Cement Plant Here.”

Another homeowner, Tori Faxel, said she may have to sell the “forever home” that she just bought, probably at a reduced price.

“We moved here for the view,” Faxel said. “We bought on top of a hill so we could see the Hill Country view, and this plant will go directly into this line of sight, so we'll have to be selling and moving away.”

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is currently reviewing Vulcan’s application for an air quality permit. The agency is accepting public comment through Nov. 30.

Burnham, the company spokesman, said the growth in the Boerne area is driving demand for the concrete plant, which will mostly service new homes in the area. He pointed out that concrete cannot travel long distances before it’s unusable.

He added "we have many facilities that are much closer to residential areas, schools and churches and we are able to co-exist and have good relations."

Whewell said his opposition group already has 500 members and is growing quickly.

“Our message to Vulcan is there are much better places where you can build this plant,” he said, “and not near children, not near the elderly and homes, and we urge them to reconsider.”

mlocklear@sbgtv.com

@MichaelLocklear

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