Guest Column: To County Board: Defeat zoning change at Cunningham and Meridian

Editor’s note: The following was submitted to members of the Winnebago County Board.

Dear County Board Member:

We strongly urge you to help defeat the zoning change from Ag to Heavy Industrial in the area southwest of Cunningham and Meridian for the proposed ethanol plant based on the reasonable set of criteria that includes:

Conserving existing values of land and buildings;

Promoting public health, safety, comfort, convenience, morals, and general welfare;

Protecting character and stability of residents, agriculture, business…within the county;

Promoting orderly and beneficial development of such areas.

Rezoning of this area does not meet that criteria. Here are just a few of our objections:

There are five residential developments within a 1-1/2 mile radius of the proposed heavy industrial zone near Cunningham and Meridian Road. We strongly suggest that such heavy industry as the ethanol plant be put as far west as possible, utilizing the same railroad line, with the fewest number of homes around it for 3 miles, and for the least impact upon quality of life, health and home values.

According to the Conservation District, the area in question “is rated as having excessive sensitivity to aquifer contamination,” and this particular project may require a large volume of groundwater withdrawal. Regarding the proximity to the south fork of Kent Creek, the Conservation District acknowledged that a development of this kind “could have a negative impact on the stream and its ecology.” Not only could an ethanol plant be built on the H.I. zoning, but various other noxious operations could move in, without any future intervention by the County Board.

The only emissions that are tested are the ones disclosed by the ethanol plant administration. We understand that they even do their own testing, instead of using an unbiased outside company. This is like the fox guarding the hen house. No studies have been done on the effect on human and animal health from the “chemical soup” of pollutants that would come from smoke stacks, truck exhaust, road dust, etc., raining down on hundreds of households in the beautiful little subdivisions nearby.

We attended the Wight Partners’ informational meeting Tuesday, Jan. 10. Far from dispelling our concerns, we are even more negative about the ethanol plant after viewing the architectural drawings showing the height and scope of the operation. Representatives of Wight Partners spouted promises and facts that have no evidence of truth, and disputed virtually everything our research has confirmed by witnesses who reside in proximity of other ethanol plants. In spite of what Wight Partners says, the ethanol processing industry is still very young, and does not have a good track record, with 83 percent of plants out of compliance with EPA standards.

It is the responsibility of every County Board member to serve the people who put them in office, not to protect themselves from political fallout, nor to capitulate to developers who care nothing about our well-being. We trust that you will do right by us.

From the Jan. 18-24, 2006, issue

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