published Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

Chattanooga ethanol facility passes city test


by Cliff Hightower

Audio clip

City Council meeting - 10/11/11

A controversial ethanol facility in the Bonny Oaks industrial park passed its first test Tuesday night when the City Council approved an ordinance that would allow the alcohol-based product in light manufacturing areas.

The City Council voted 5-4 in favor of the change. Councilmen Jack Benson and Russell Gilbert and Councilwomen Carol Berz and Pam Ladd voted no.

“This does not violate the covenants and restrictions,” Mike Price of MAP Engineers told the council.

The case has been a point of controversy for several months, with the council previously deferring the matter three times until the Hamilton County Commission took action.

Almost a month ago, the commission voted 5-4 to authorize the sale of the industrial park’s last vacant track to Englewood Enterprises for $399,5000.

There had been some concerns about covenants placed on the property. Price, speaking on behalf of Englewood, said Tuesday night the county attorney who originally drafted the covenants signed off on the deal.

Gilbert said he was afraid of the pollution and other chemical hazards if the facility located in the area. He especially took exception that the ordinance also would allow petroleum. He said he remembered as a child watching a gas tank blow up in the same area.

“Things could be more hazardous in there,” he said.

Residents of the area also spoke to the council in opposition.

Sue Powell, who lives in the Lake Hills subdivision, said she first opposed the ethanol facility, but allowing an ordinance for a special exceptions permit went beyond even her own neighborhood.

“Now you’re impacting the entire city,” she said.

She said she feared other neighborhoods with a rail line running through them potentially could see ethanol or petroleum facilities cropping up. She said her own neighborhood met about the potential ethanol plant.

“Thirty-five people were there,” she said. “None of them were in favor.”

WHAT’S NEXT

The City Council will vote next week on second reading of an ordinance that would allow facilities that transport ethanol and petroleum to operate within the city under a special exceptions permit. The law then will come into effect in another four weeks.

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