|By ANN ALLEN
ROCHESTER, Ind. — Indiana Renewable Fuels LLC, the company that seeks to build a 100-million-gallon-per year dry mill ethanol plant in northern Indiana, received mixed signals from the two sites it is considering, one in Marshall County and the other three miles south in Fulton County.
When one of the property owners decided not to sell, Marshall County Plan Director Ralph Booker declared IRF’s application to the Marshall County Plan Commission and the Argos Plan Commission for rezoning 173 acres south of Argos null and void and cancelled the scheduled Sept. 11 hearing.
For now, neighbors opposed to locating the ethanol plant in a predominately residential area are breathing a sigh of relief while those surrounding the Fulton County site are furious that county commissioners approved rezoning 430 acres of farmland for the ethanol plant.
The commissioners received the rezoning request with three conditions attached:
•All lighting must face down
•The company must make available 100 feet total of right-of-way for County Road 100 East road maintenance
•An aquifer assessment to determine if the area can handle a 1.44 to 1.58-million-gallon-per-day draw of water to the plant
They returned the rezoning request to the plan commission with four more provisions, all to be enforceable through zoning authorities:
•The ability to require, review and approve site plans for any business locating in the rezoned area
•A limit of two common entrances to the rezoned area
•Other businesses in the area must be suitable for an agri-business park
•No excessive odor beyond plant boundaries
The commissioners’ decision drew heat from disgruntled neighbors and praise from Fulton County Economic Development Corp. director Tom Tucker.
In letters to the editor of The Rochester Sentinel, residents complained that commissioners lacked basic sense and likened them to the Three Stooges, while those attending the meeting objected to possible noise, pollution and cited lowered property values.
A sore point for many is the proximity of the plant to the County Line Landfill, a towering mountain of refuse that will provide methane gas to power the ethanol plant. One resident, already weary of the landfill’s smell complained, “I have to see the landfill from my back deck. Now I’ll have to see the ethanol plant.”
The positive side
Sounding a positive note, Tom Tucker said Fulton County has not seen such a positive economic story in decades. His reasoning includes 45-50 new jobs paying up to $25 per hour for an annual payroll of approximately $2.5 million.
“Apply the economic multiplier to this,” he said, “and it equates to roughly $7-$10 million additional revenue being pumped into the county each year.”
Other benefits touted by Tucker were:
•A new source of revenue and usage for the Fulton County Railroad (a 15-mile freight line with only one user)
•With enhanced rail service, other businesses will want to locate in the county
•Raising the corn basis points by even a nickel per bushel would put several hundred thousand dollars in the pockets of Fulton County farmers each year
•The ethanol plant will bring electric and gas service to the site, which, combining this with the upgraded rail and enhanced state and county highways, will make the site the first in the county to be shovel-ready
•The construction process will employ as many as 1,600 workers, generating additional circulatory revenue
•The benefits of ethanol as an alternative fuel to help reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil
Undeterred by recent developments, Revis Stephenson, president of Advanced BioEnergy, which merged with IRF earlier this year, said, “We’ll push for the best, most cost-efficient and safest site.”
This farm news was published in the Sept. 13, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.