Boone County's zoning board of appeals debated late into Tuesday night over whether to allow a Chemtool industrial lubricant plant into town. Neighboring residents came out by the dozens to speak their minds.
The decision before the commitee was whether to grant Chemtool's request to convert 160 acres near the small town of Garden Prairie from agricultural to light industrial. Chemtool also wants a special use permit to manufacture petroleum and bio-based products on the site.
Many neighbors assembled Tuesday night are strongly against letting the factory in. They fear its operations would contaminate the area's ground water, pose safety hazards, especialy to a neighboring elementary school, and disrupt the area's lifestyle. Supporters hope to overcome those concerns.
"You're always going to have some uncertainties from people who live in and around the area and rightfully so. I think that those uncertainties will start to become eased with the type of information, the level of information that we put out," says Mark Williams, Executive Director of the economic development company Growth Dimensions, that serves Boone County and Belvidere.
Chemtool estimates it would employ 500 people at the plant. A recent economic study says the plant would generate 245 additional jobs in the area and increase local sales tax revenue by 400 thousand dollars a year.
Last week, the county's planning commission approved the zoning change but they asked that Chemtool meet higher environmental standards and consider moving the entrance to U.S. 20 from Garden Prairie Road. The full Boone County Board still has to weigh in.