Last Appeal Dismissed, Clearing Way for Westford Asphalt Plant

November 14, 2017 GMT

WESTFORD -- An appeal challenging Newport Materials’s permit to build an asphalt plant has been dismissed, clearing away the final legal opposition the company faced.

A group of eight Westford residents filed the appeal last December, three months after the town announced a legal settlement that would allow Newport to open an asphalt manufacturing plant. The settlement, which came after years of the town fighting Newport’s efforts, prompted outrage among some in town.

The case was scheduled for a hearing next Tuesday, but in late October, the plaintiffs withdrew their case with little explanation and to little fanfare from Newport.

Laurence Sweeney, one of the plaintiffs, said Thursday that two others in the case had dropped out after reaching an agreement with Newport. He did not know any details about the agreement.

“The remaining plaintiffs (including myself) decided that without funding to hire legal counsel with experience in this area of law, we would be unable to proceed with the litigation and, therefore, we decided to voluntarily dismiss the claims,” Sweeney said in an email.

Sweeney said the plaintiffs still “firmly believe” Newport’s permit is invalid and violates zoning bylaws, but that no further litigation is planned at this point.

The residents’ case was the final of three legal challenges filed against Newport in the wake of Westford’s settlement.

One case alleged town officials violated the Open Meeting Law by reaching the settlement with Newport behind closed doors, but a judge found no violation and dismissed the case last month.

Another was filed by the town of Chelmsford, whose leaders argued that the asphalt plant -- which is being constructed at 540 Groton Road, just a stone’s throw from the border between the two towns-- would expose Chelmsford firefighters to undue risk if they were to respond to a mutual aid call.

That case was dismissed in September when a judge ruled Chelmsford did not have legal standing to challenge the project in Westford.

Newport Materials President Richard DeFelice said in August -- before decisions in any of the three cases -- that construction on the plant would proceed “full steam ahead” and that asphalt production would begin in 2018.

Reached by email Thursday, DeFelice briefly said that construction is “on schedule.”

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