Ethanol Controversy Continues

By: Alice Barr
By: Alice Barr

The new ethanol plant on Rockford's west side continues to cause controversy. The developer, Wight Partners International, is now asking for about 55 additional acres of land south of the plant.
Wight would use the land to install unit trains to transport ethanol and other products around the plant.
Residents are raising the red flag on the plan. Neighbors waved red pieces of paper in disapproval and voiced their concerns tonight to the county zoning board of appeals. They fear the trains will add to noise, pollution and danger and further decrease property values.
Wight representatives say the ethanol market is moving toward unit trains, something they did not forsee when they made the original proposal last year.
They say they have to make the switch to be competitive. But many residents just don't want to add to a plant they didn't want in the first place.
Marv Swanson, who lives right next to the plant says, "I'm a half mile from it. I could sit out in my back yard and used to watch the fireworks and now I gotta look at a big black smoke stack."
Wight officials declined to speak on camera. But they say the trains won't further inconvenience neighbors. They're working with local firefighters to make sure there won't be any safety hazards.
The underlying fear is that if the added land is rezoned from agriculture to heavy industrial, developers will do more than just add a train yard.
The zoning board of appeals did not reach a decision tonight. Since the meeting went so late into the night, it will have to continue at another time. No word tonight on the date.


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