In a social media post Sept. 17, La Paz County District 3 Supervisor Holly Irwin announced Alliance Metals Southwest LLC has withdrawn their application for a Conditional Use Permit from the county for their proposed aluminum smelter between Salome and Wenden.
“They still have applications in for a Minor Amendment to our Comprehensive Plan and a Re-Zone, in that order,” Irwin said. “These will have to go in front of the Planning & Zoning Commission first before they come before the Board of Supervisors. I have advised staff to have the P&Z meeting held out at the Community Center for residents to attend.”
Irwin was referring to the Centennial Community Center between Salome and Wenden. She said that, due to all the changes, she did not know when that hearing would be.
The proposed smelter has proven to be controversial among Salome and Wenden residents. Proponents of the facility say it would bring in jobs and revenue for the county. Opponents question the location and the level of pollutants. They were also concerned over potential problems with hazardous materials.
A crowd estimated at more than 100 people attended a public hearing Sept. 4 by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality to gather comments on Alliance’s application for an air quality permit. There were 14 people who made comments at the hearing, none of them in favor of the smelter in its current proposed location.
Many of those who spoke at the ADEQ hearing said the smelter should be built in an area zoned for heavy industry. The location is currently zoned for agriculture, RA-40 (Rural Agriculture, 40 acres minimum parcel size).
The location has led some to question why the company would purchase a piece of property that wasn’t zoned for what they wanted to do. An attorney representing the company, Tom Galvin of the Rose Law Group, said this was not an unusual occurrence. He said the company chose this property as they felt it was good for their business plans.
“I don’t know why they picked that property,” Galvin said. “I do know they wanted to be in La Paz County.”
Galvin said the company received no guarantees or assurances the property would be rezoned. He added this was being decided by the Board of Supervisors and what they or any other elected body will do is never guaranteed.
“Nothing is ever guaranteed,” he said. “No one should ever feel they have a guarantee on something.”
District 2 Supervisor Duce Minor said a Conditional Use Permit would give the County more control over how things were done at the smelter than a zoning change. Galvin agreed with this assessment.
Minor and Galvin disagreed on whether granting the Conditional Use Permit would require a unanimous vote of the Board of Supervisors. Minor said it would, while Galvin said it would not.
La Paz County Chief Deputy Civil Attorney Ryan Dooley said the confusion may come from two sections of the county’s zoning code. The section regarding Conditional Use Permits, 104.01B1b, states, “A use that is not listed as a conditional use in the Zoning District may be approved as such only after the Board and Commissions have held public hearings on the proposed use, the Commission has made a recommendation to the Board, and the Board votes unanimously for approval of the conditional use permit.”
Dooley said Appendix B of the zoning code lists smelting of some metals as permitted in an area zoned for agriculture with a Conditional Use Permit. While tin, zinc, copper and iron ores are specifically mentioned, aluminum is not.
Irwin reminded everyone in social media posts that nothing has been decided yet. No permits have been issued. The proposed facility is going through the county process established for all developments.