A proposed addition to an already controversial ethanol plant on Rockford's west side is up for debate. The Winnebago County Board is expected to vote on the addition Thursday night.
The plant's developers, Wight Partners, have secured 60 acres to build the plant out on Meridian Road. Now they're asking for nearly 55 more acres to add train tracks to the site.
After much debate, the county's zoning board of appeals recommended rezoning the 55 acres from residential to heavy industrial to allow the addition.
The full board is expected to vote on that Thursday night. They'll consider any safety or environmental threats the trains could pose moving ethanol around the plant.
Dueling lawsuits add to the mix. A group of homeowners around the site sued Wight Partners to block the plant. Wight Partners then sued them back for interfering with their contract.
Both suits are pending and the board is divided.
"There are some people that have some reservations why they need that much property for just those 5 rail lines and then why did they bring it up after the fact?" says board member Bob Hastings (D-13).
Hastings is in favor of the addition. He'll have to find 20 other supporters out of the 28 members for the motion to pass, because a neighbor filed as a legal objector.
Neighbors worry what other use developers could make of the land if it switches to heavy industrial. Wight Partners say trains are all they want to add.