The fate of the project now rests with the Board of Commissioners later this month
It was a vote that was originally supposed to have occurred in August for the Board of Zoning and Appeals regarding the VNA Corporation and its biofuel site to be located northwest of Belle Plaine. It then got bumped to September due to the amount of people who came out the first night to speak out regarding it.
The meeting in September, however, brought out even more people who came to speak and time once again ran out for the meeting to accomplish its goals. This time, on Nov. 7th, the vote was conducted.
Representatives from the VNA Corporation, including Greg Northrup, the company president. Members from the Wellington Chamber of Commerce and Sumner County Economic Development were also on hand.
By a vote of 6 to 1, the board voted no to the zone change regarding the VNA Corporation bio fuelproject. By a margin of 7-1, the issue of conditional use of the property was denied to the VNA Corporation. Both of these measures will be voted on by the Sumner County Commissioners on Nov. 26th at 10:00 a.m.
A representative for Sumner County Economic Development tried to make a case for the VNA project, saying, “For the first time in a long time, Sumner County is growing and is open for business.” She went on on to speak of the positive regional economic impact this project would have on Sumner County, if approved. She concluded by adding, “VNA is knocking at our door, and we hope they are welcome in our business community.”
What then followed was a line of people who lived in the area of where the proposed plant would be. Among them was Mark Spencer, who lives on Meridian Road. He reminded the board members that “the homes listed as parcels in the documents were not parcels, they were people’s homes.” He added that the “new traffic will affect the safety and welfare of the people who live in the area. How safe will I be with this traffic?”
He went on to remind the board of Northrup’s prior project in Lowell, Mich., that made headlines when it failed. He referred to Northrup as a “failure.” He concluded by saying if “this project is so good, let’s put it in your backyard instead of ours.”
Chris Roger was another resident who lives on Meridian Road who came up to speak. He spoke of the fire danger a plant like this would have. He wondered why no one from the fire department had come there to speak about the fire danger. Again, he brought up the Lowell, Mich. project. “You cannot keep taking out and not putting back in,” he said, regarding the use of the soil at that location. “I won’t want anyone in this room to have a stupid look on their face wondering where the soil went.”
The falling price of natural gas was another danger he mentioned, referring to its pessimistic outlook years from now. He said, “We have so much natural gas now, we don’t know what to do with all of it.”
His concluding words were, “I wish people would just wake up.”
When Northrup finally spoke before the board, he was interrupted several times by members of the audience who either laughed or made derogatory remarks. He referred to much of what had been said—both earlier in the evening as well as at previous meetings—as “misinformation.” He again spoke of his past successes over the past five years and proclaimed “We’re going to be successful if we invest in it,” hoping to appeal to the members of the board.
Northrup had a testy exchange with one of the board members who asked questions about his transportation plans for the product, as well as the long-term outlook for renewable energy. Northrup replied he did not have a crystal ball and could not promise what it would be.
After the first measure was voted on, most of the public moved to leave, with only a fraction of the original crowd still there for the final vote. Members of the Facebook group Save the Ninnescah seemed very pleased with how things went Wednesday evening, but their hopes rest with the final vote by County Commissioners later this month.