Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Biofuel plant county meeting, part II

A friendly reminder that part two of the county P&Z meeting will be held tomorrow starting at 10:00am at the county building... subject matter is on the biofuels plant. Come on down and support private property rights, lend your voice to the discussion. If you are having difficulty remembering what transpired last week, here is an article given to me by Dave Hawkins that will appear in The Standard later this week.

Pro Growth Swell

Energy and expression in support of growth and development was clearly more evident at an August 12 meeting during which the Mohave County Planning and Zoning Commission tabled action on requests related to a biodiesel facility proposed about 20 miles north of Kingman.

Voices of opposition in recent months have dominated public hearings and meetings regarding billion-dollar-plus solar power projects and the $20-million dollar biodiesel plant that Sun West Biofuels LLC wants to build on a 15 1/2-acre site just outside the Route 66 community of Valle Vista. Mayor John Salem, City Council member Robin Gordon and a number of other Kingman area residents pushed a different point view, telling the County Commission that employment and other economic benefits must be weighed in the debate.

``I realize that there's only about 20 jobs that may come from this (biodiesel plant) but the reality is, as you all know, is this is just really the tip of the spear of an enormous amount of green development that's going to happen here in Mohave County," Ken Herskind told the Commission. ``We have an opportunity here to either open our door for business and opportunity for our citizens or to slam it shut. There's billions of dollars of development literally on our doorstep."

Justin Chambers said he's also tired of the anti-development attitude.

``I come to these meetings and time and time again I see the same people opposing anything that will bring growth to town," Chambers said. ``People my age have families to support and it's not fair what you guys are doing to us here. We don't have pensions and social security to rely on."

Cherish Sammeli added that young adults are leaving the area in pursuit of employment.

``My age demographic is slowly disappearing in this community," Sameli said. ``There are a lack of jobs, people are forced to relocate and there are not enough job opportunities available to choose from."

A number of Valle Vista residents hammered home their point that they are not opposed to growth or development and have no issue with biodiesel production. They said they mostly oppose the proposed location of the facility.

They said they were concerned about dangerous chemicals that would be used in the operation and argued the plant should be built at either the Kingman Airport Industrial Park or somewhere in the I-40 corridor in the Yucca area.

``The people who are for this project aren't going to live anywhere near this," one Valle Vista woman said. ``The ones who really care about their neighborhood in Valle Vista don't want the project because of the possibility of fire and the possibility of explosion."

Project Manager Rick Neal reiterated his position that the biodiesel plant will be safe, green and clean.

``There will be no hazardous waste of any kind. We will use no water in our production," Neal said. ``This is a closed loop system. We will be emitting no pollutants or smell into the atmosphere."

Several Valle Vista residents complained they moved into a rural setting to gain distance from industry and didn't want such businesses encroaching upon them. 50-year Kingman resident Shay Givans argued that Neal has property rights as well, and should be free to develop his land provided he's in compliance with all rules and regulations.

Richard Basinger, attorney for the Valle Vista Property Owners Association, countered that Neal currently enjoys no property right beyond the agricultural designation afforded under the general plan. Basinger urged Commission rejection of the request to amend the general plan to allow the biodiesel plant under a heavy manufacturing designation.

Other plant opponents, with support from Commission members Bill Abbott and Carl Flusche, expressed worry that the requested general plan amendment could open the floodgates for less desirable heavy industries.

``If you allow this, it's going to get a foothold and it will continue and the footprint will get a lot larger," agreed Frank Lee.

Bob Taylor, a civil division deputy county attorney, clarified that land use designations under a plan amendment do not change underlying zoning. Other heavy industrial projects, he said, would require additional zone changes or Zoning Use Permits (ZUP) for development and operation.

Commission and county staff members provided some comment but statements from 30 citizens dominated the 90-minute long public hearing. The Commission did not vote on the plan amendment or the ZUP sought for the biodiesel facility.

The matters will be considered during a special August 19 meeting of the Commission.

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