A Public Hearing was held today at 1:30 p.m. in the County Commissioners’ Hearing Room, County Government Center, Chestertown, Maryland on Code Home Rule No. 5-2006, which is a zoning text amendment based upon an application submitted by William David Leager proposing an Act to amend the Kent County Land Use Ordinance by repealing and reenacting Article V, Sections 15.2.1 (Industrial District – permitted principal uses and structures) to add “Grain, Processing, Distilling, and Biofuel production” as a permitted use in the Industrial District; and providing that the title of this Legislative Bill shall be deemed a fair summary.
County Commissioners William Pickrum, Roy Crow, and Alexander Rasin were in attendance as well as Susanne Hayman, County Administrator, others in attendance were William David Leager, Applicant, Sue Leager, Elizabeth Morris, Pat Langenfelder, Reverend Ruben Freeman, representing the Planning Commission, Gail Owings, Director of Planning, Carla Martin, Community Planner, Bill Kerbin, Housing Planner, Jack Steinmetz, Economic Development Director, nine interested citizens, and one member of the media.
Commissioner Pickrum read the Notice of Public Hearing into the record.
Commissioner Pickrum also read into the record the following correspondence: Letter dated October 20 received from the Kent County Agricultural Advisory Commission which stated that at its October 17 meeting, the members of the Commission voted unanimously to recommend approval of the proposal, contingent upon the following changes:
Add to Article V, Section 15.2 (Industrial Permitted Uses)
18. The Processing and distilling of grains or fiber for the production of biofuels provided the property is located in the Maryland Route 301 corridor, but not the refining of petroleum distillates.
The Agricultural Advisory Commission found that the proposed amendment would not have a detrimental effect on agriculture in the county and that it may even benefit local farmers. The Commission felt that it was important to include fiber in addition to grains in order to allow the use of all sources of feedstock for a biofuels plant. The Commission also noted that the proposal is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan and its goal to maintain and strengthen natural resource-based industries.
Letter dated September 8, 2006, received from the Kent County Planning Commission which stated that at its September 8 meeting, the Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend approval of the proposal in the Industrial District but not the Employment Center District, contingent upon the following changes, which were similar to those recommendations made by the Agricultural Advisory Commission:
Add to Article V, Section 15.2 (Industrial) - 18 " The processing and distilling of grains for the production of biofuels but not the refining of petroleum distillates provided the property is located in the Maryland Route 301 corridor"
The Planning Commission found that as amended, the proposal is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan because the plan calls for the recruitment of environmentally sound, well paying sustainable industries. The Commission also found that that the proposal meets a public need to develop initiatives and programs that maintain the economic vitality of the agriculture in Kent County.
Letter dated October 22, 2006 received from the Kent County Farm Bureau, stating that its members support the zoning text amendment to the Kent County Land Use Ordinance that proposes to add "Grain, Processing, Distilling, and Biofuel production" as a permitted use in the Industrial District.
Commissioner Pickrum invited anyone who wished to speak for or against the proposed legislation to do so.
Mr. William Graham of Galena spoke in opposition to the addition of this type of industry to Kent County, stating that an Ethanol plant would not be proper in this area. Mr. Graham stated that an Ethanol plant in Kent County would be the first in the North Eastern region of the country because several areas have turned the idea down. He also noted several negative aspects of an ethanol plant, including the added pollutants to the environment, the massive amounts of water used, and the lack of local labor used to build and staff the facility. He concluded by adding that Kent County should focus on attracting industries that are better suited for the area.
William David Leager, applicant, spoke to the Commissioners that although some outside funds may be utilized, the building of the ethanol plant will involve local landowners and farmers. Mr. Leager also stated there is an adequate amount of water at the site to support the ethanol plant. He also noted that he has received endorsement from the Economic Development Advisory Board, the Planning Commission, the Agricultural Advisory Commission, and Kent County Farm Bureau. Mr. Leager was reminded that the hearing was about the text amendment and not a specific project.
Bruce Gordon, of Easton, spoke in opposition to the text amendment, stating that attention should be paid to where the County is headed as a peninsula. He distributed several handouts, including an article printed in the Baltimore Sun that expressed the misconceptions about ethanol, and facts about Delmarva's Broiler Chicken Industry in 2005, which stated that 76,435,000 bushels of corn were used for feed in that year. Mr. Gordon feels that the addition of an ethanol plant to Kent County, and proposed plants in Wicomico, and Sussex Counties, would be disastrous to the poultry industry. Based on numbers projected by the United States Department of Agriculture, the Delmarva Agricultural Industry has been devastated by a loss of 15 million bushels of corn in the last year. With the addition of three ethanol plants, there would be potential for a loss of 30 million bushels, which could cause a loss of 60,000 jobs on the Peninsula. As a result of the large demands of corn that would be needed to produce the ethanol, farmers would be unable to compete with the higher feed prices for chickens. Commissioner Crow mentioned that 85% of the corn that goes into the production of ethanol comes out as a bi-product that can be used as chicken feed.
Janice Graham, a member of the Sierra Club, also spoke in opposition to the text amendment. Mrs. Graham stated that the process of creating ethanol will create leakage, which can cause odor and health problems. She also stated that the plant will pose a threat to the environment by producing noxious compounds into the air as well as create a lot of noise in this area. She also noted an article in the Academy of Science Newsletter recommending against this type of amendment.
Scott Mason, investor, spoke as a supporter of the text amendment and the proposed ethanol plant, stating that the plant will allow local farmers to have independence again. Farmers will be given a choice as to where to distribute their corn and farmland will be preserved. The ethanol plant will be state of the art and built with the environment in mind. He reminded everyone this will be a long process before this could become a reality.
Sue Leager spoke in support of the text amendment, stating that protein supplements will be available to feed chickens. She also mentioned that it is the intention of the supporters of the plant to work with the poultry industry rather than against it.
Eric Dunn spoke in support of the text amendment. Mr. Dunn reiterated that the purpose of the text amendment was not to gain approval for a plant, but to allow for a new industry. Mr. Dunn also stated that ethanol helps to support the energy crisis. In the future motor vehicles will be moving towards an 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline mix. He reminded everyone that this proposed industry would be overseen by MDE as well as other regulatory agencies. This proposed amendment is just the first step to identify the site.
Correspondence dated September 29, was received from Mr. and Mrs. John D. Haggerty, expressing their opposition to the Ethanol Plant being constructed in the Golts area. Mr. and Mrs. Haggerty believe that a plant of this magnitude would take water away from farm animals in the area. It was also stated that the roads could not support an additional 70 trucks into and out of the area on a daily basis.
Commissioner Rasin stated that if the text amendment was approved, it should be amended to make it a conditional use rather than a permitted use.
The Commissioners also felt this type of industry be restricted to the US 301 Corridor. Mr. Leager was in agreement with this type of restriction.
This hearing was taped for reference and adjourned at 2:30 p.m.
After this hearing, Mr. and Mrs. Leager gave a film presentation on the proposed ethanol plant industry.
THE COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
OF KENT COUNTY, MARYLAND
Janice F. Fletcher
William W. Pickrum