Engineer wants to build "moonshine" pipeline in Hamilton County

Engineer wants to build "moonshine" pipeline in Hamilton County

August 31st, 2011 by Ansley Haman in News

Mike Price, with M.A.P. Engineers

Mike Price, with M.A.P. Engineers

A local engineer wants to build a "moonshine" pipeline through county property in the Bonny Oaks Industrial & Office Park.

Mike Price, with M.A.P. Engineers, has been meeting individually with Hamilton County commissioners about a proposed ethanol facility. Ethanol would be offloaded from rail cars on the east side of the park and pumped through an underground pipeline to nearby fuel distribution centers on Jersey Pike where it would be mixed with gasoline.

Price, the site engineer for the project, said local leaders and residents should not fear the facility and pipeline, which would be owned and operated by Englewood Enterprises.

"It's basically moonshine," he said of ethanol, which is mixed with 1 percent gasoline, then later often mixed with more gasoline for cars.

Mixing it with gasoline makes ethanol "to where it's not drinkable," he said.

Commissioners are expected to discuss the project during Thursday's agenda session.

Price said the facility could lead to lower consumer fuel prices and reduce the number of ethanol tanker trucks on local highways, but the project has been on hold since March.

Some residents and local leaders fear the zoning changes and legal approvals necessary for the project could create an industrial area that might wind up like Chattanooga's Alton Park, which has several former industrial sites that are contaminated with chemicals and other substances and have been sitting unused for years.

Price said he has been holding forums in the industrial park's surrounding neighborhoods to explain the project and field concerns.

In 1990, the county revised the industrial park's restrictions and property covenants, which are agreements that all tenants within the park must abide by. Among other things, the industrial park's restrictions give commissioners the ability to approve site plans and requires tenants to maintain a minimum lot size, a maximum building area and to comply with Chattanooga's zoning ordinances and local, state and federal sewage and emissions standards.

As part of meeting those convenants, the ethanol project would require the Chattanooga City Council to approve a zoning change or special-use permit.

Initially, Price asked the city to change the property's zoning from light manufacturing to heavy manufacturing, but now he is pursuing a special-use permit within the light manufacturing designation.

Price said seeking a special use permit would not affect the county's industrial park's covenants.

Hamilton County Commissioner Mitch McClure

Hamilton County Commissioner Mitch McClure

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

Commissioner Mitch McClure said he is concerned about possible violation of the industrial park's covenants.

"I'm not against business, I'm not against anything like that but, as I understand, there were certain covenants made to those adjacent property owners in that community," McClure said. "My concern is are we breaking those covenants or promises that we made to that community."

Commission Chairman Larry Henry said he is also concerned about violating covenants that have been kept for more than 30 years by other businesses in the park.

In addition to city zoning changes, the County Commission must approve a sale by the property's current owner, JDK Real Estate. The property may only be sold with approval by the Hamilton County Commission, and pricing requirements are also set out in the covenants.

JDK Real Estate declined to comment because the property is currently under contract.

If commissioners approve the sale, they then would have to approve construction of a 3,000-foot pipeline through county property in the park, Price said. The pipeline would continue along the CSX Rail right of way.

The line might have to cross beneath a county retention pond, Henry said.

"I don't see that as being any different than running an electrical line or a sanitary sewer line," Price said.

Englewood Enterprises operates a facility on Manufacturers Road that pumps ethanol into tanker trucks, which then drive to the Jersey Pike distributors. Englewood Enterprises would close its Manufacturers Road facility upon the completion of the new facility, Price said.

The earliest the facility would be operational would be June 2012.

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