Support heard for Somerset ethanol plant

Support heard for Somerset ethanol plant

The Somerset County Planning and Zoning Commission heard mostly favorable testimony Thursday night from area residents who said they would like to see an ethanol plant built on Route 13 north of Pocomoke City.

The application by Chesapeake Renewable Energy to rezone 78 acres from agricultural-residential to general industrial drew about 15 people to a public hearing.

“I firmly believe in ethanol,” said Bill Twilley, a retired Wicomico County farmer who was one of three people who spoke at the hearing. “Producing alcohol from grain is good for America.”

Another proponent of the plan, forester Michael Allinder of Pocomoke, said the company’s plan to fuel the plant with waste wood products would provide a good outlet for materials that normally go to waste.

“Most of this product is left in the woods,” he said.

The company is proposing to use the land for a production plant, as well as storage buildings for the corn used in making the ethanol on a portion of the 252-acre Alexander Farm, located between northbound Route 13 and the railroad tracks at Costen Road, opposite the Lankford-Sysco Food Services facility.

Although the company is planning to purchase the entire farm, it is only seeking to rezone 78 acres for the plant. The remainder would continue to be used as farmland, said Charles D. “Chip” MacLeod, the company’s attorney.

The land was chosen mostly because it is large enough to build a loop track for trains that will deliver 18.5 million bushels of corn to the site and then haul away 50 million gallons of ethanol every year.

Mack Shelor, a company official, said most of the corn will be imported from the Midwest, but about 4.5 million bushels are expected to be purchased locally. Although much of the surrounding area is zoned for agricultural use, MacLeod argued that the nearby Lankford-Sysco and Smurfitt Stone facilities are both zoned industrial. The proposed ethanol plant site also is in the Route 13 corridor that has been designated as a growth area in Somerset County’s comprehensive plan, he said.

The only person who spoke against the plant, Bill Garner of Westover, said he hated to see good farmland used for another purpose, although he was generally in favor of ethanol production.

“I guess I’m for it and against it,” he said.

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