Both Sides Brace for Proposed Ethanol Plant's Latest Chapter

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These residents feel like they have nothing to gain, and everything to lose if a proposed ethanol plant goes here on South Meridian Road. That's why this week is so important.

"The message that we want to get to the county board is that we are voters, and we are voters with memory, and we will bring our memories with us into the voting booth," Wendy Larson said.

Tuesday night residents and developers for the proposed ethanol plant will meet here, the Winnebago County Farm Bureau. Now this could be a testy environment, but the residents I spoke with only hope that questions are answered, and emotions are held in check.

"This is an informational opportunity. This is your chance to learn, and that doesn't happen when tempers flare," Larson said.

Tuesday's meeting will be followed with a zoning board of appeals hearing on Wednesday. There, the ZBA will recommend whether or not to re-zone this agricultural land to heavy industrial, opening the door for the ethanol plant's construction. Winnebago County Board Member Randy Olson says the ethanol plant plan is a balance between new jobs and dollars and neighbors concerns.

"It all sounds pretty good and then the reality starts setting in that's OK, what's this going to do to our quality of life, property; that sets in, and they start asking questions, and they're good questions," Olson said.

Olson expects a healthy debate at both meetings, and should the land be re-zoned, he expects the ethanol plant vote to be close if it reaches the county board in the coming weeks.

"If they can guarantee there's going to be no air pollution, odors, smells or any type of environmental impacts I think myself and many board members will support it," Olson said.

A project which promises to boost the county's economic health, while also risking the property health of hundreds of surrounding neighbors.