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Public meeting draws dozens to debate proposed battery factory

The proposed Amprius facility is part of a federal push to build more clean energy in the United States, but neighbors fear the implications of a factory next door.

BRIGHTON, Colo — On Tuesday night, the Brighton City Council voted 4-3 to advance a measure regarding the creation of a lithium-ion factory in the city.

The council voted after an hours-long public meeting that was crowded enough to require the conversion of the city hall lobby into an overflow room. 

The proposed creation of the lithium-ion factory in a former K-Mart distribution center was applauded by Colorado's Democratic Governor Jared Polis as part of the clean energy future, but some neighbors said they did not want the factory to move in next door. 

"By all means come on into Brighton," said Jessie Williams, who lives nearby. "But coming into the middle of a neighborhood is completely unacceptable."

Others, including representatives of local business groups and the chamber of commerce, voiced support for the plant - citing job creation, clean energy and the redevelopment of a largely unused site. 

The proposed facility near Southern Street and South 40th Avenue in Brighton would be located in an existing 1.3 million square foot facility, but required city approval to re-zone it to allow for a transition from warehouse and distribution uses to allow industrial uses, including manufacturing with hazardous materials. 

At the meeting Tuesday, city staff recommended approval of the project and said it evaluated the Amprius facility to be safe. The company said in a statement that it is committed to building and operating a safe facility that protects employees, the community and the environment. 

In a fact sheet published by Amprius, the company said its practices, policies and technologies are designed to minimize environmental impact and promote sustainability. Amprius got millions of dollars in federal funding as part of a push to build more batteries in the United States. 

But the fear of fires, explosions and hazardous materials two blocks from home is what concerns Williams and several other neighbors who rallied outside the city council meeting Tuesday night. "We’re fine with the technology, we’re fine with going green with moving forward and doing all initiatives that we need to do -- however it needs to be in appropriate locations." 

Williams is now running for city council and said the debate over the battery factory encouraged her to get more involved in local politics. 

If approved, Amprius said it could begin construction by the end of the year with production beginning in 2025.


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