With US 113 access condition, county council OKs CleanBay Renewable’s request

GEORGETOWN – Banking on a condition that will limit truck entrance/exit access from US 113 only, Sussex County Council took the affirmative road in approving a conditional-use request for a methane-powered facility near Georgetown that will convert chicken litter into electricity.

Council by 5-0 vote July 31 approved the request from Maryland-based CleanBay Renewables LLC for the proposed electrical generation/nutrient recovery plant located on 16.71 acres at the southwest corner of U.S. 113 and Breasure Road south of Georgetown.

“The truck traffic was definitely a concern. Does it fit in this neighborhood? Not if you are driving through the neighborhood to get to it,” said councilman Irwin “I.G.” Burton. “There is other commercial use around it. So, I think if we can eliminate the truck traffic, I think we’ve done a good thing.”

At a Feb. 20 public hearing before council, neighbors and area residents vehemently opposed the proposal, citing heavy truck traffic that already exists in that area with proximity to a nearby borrow pit and asphalt plant. Residents also expressed concern about noise and potential for air and ground-water pollution. Those opposed in a show of hands outnumbered those in favor by a 7-to-1 margin.

The county’s planning and zoning commission recommended approval with a series of conditions to council. In July of 2017, planning and zoning had rejected CleanBays’ conditional-use request for a plant site on SR 9 east of Georgetown.

County council members supported councilman Samuel Wilson Jr.’s additional conditional recommendation that trucks shall only access the facility via U.S. 113.

“I think there is a lot of very positives with this,” said councilman Rob Arlett. “The downside to it based on the public input was the traffic concern, and the truck traffic along the road that goes next to their community, which is a very valid concern. I think along with that, councilman Wilson has addressed that as a requirement of this application to ensure that that truck traffic is removed away from the community.”

“If there are trucks that are coming in after hours, I am confident that the community will self-police and make a complaint appropriately,” said. Mr. Arlett. “I think it is good for the environment. It is along a highway and so long as DelDOT has the ability to do this entrance out there I think it is appropriate.”

County council president Michael Vincent agreed. “I also agree with the many conditions. I think Mr. Wilson covered that,” he said. “The thing I heard from the public when we had the hearing before was about no traffic on Breasure Road; ‘not in our neighborhood.’ I certainly agree with that. It is a very narrow road. With (US) 113 I think that changes that up.”

Becky Breasure was among the people who witnessed council’s approval and left council chambers unhappy and puzzled.

“I don’t understand. Didn’t they hear all of us say we were concerned about the water? We were concerned about air, our water, and the pollution of chicken manure. It just seemed they based it on just traffic,” said Ms. Breasure, who owns a 23-acre parcel.  “It seems like county council and planning and zoning just don’t care.”

“I am very, very disappointed. I thought maybe they would have some care in their heart. But, apparently, they don’t have any heart. They wouldn’t want it in their neighborhood. I am sure George Cole wouldn’t want anything like that in his neighborhood,” said Ms. Breasure. “I can understand why people are just fed up with the government. They are fed up with the federal government, the county government and fed up with state government, on both sides.”

Under CleanBay Renewables LLC’s proposal, upward of 250 tons – about 12 truckloads – of chicken manure would be trucked daily to the facility six days a week. Raw litter would undergo heating at 130 degrees, fermented in large tanks, processed through anaerobic digestion and methane produced would generate electricity in a month-long process.

Andy Hallmark, outreach director for CleanBay Renewables, explained at the public hearing in February that the plant will produce upward of five kilowatts of electricity daily, capable of supplying electricity to 3,000 to 3,500 homes – more than in the town of Georgetown.

Four kilowatts would be contributed to Delaware Electric Cooperative’s grid and one kilowatt of electricity would power plant operations, under the proposal, Mr. Hallmark said.

The facility would have 15 to 17 fulltime employees, Mr. Hallmark said at the hearing.

In recommending by 4-0 vote denial of CleanBay’s initial conditional-use application for a nutrient recovery facility east of Georgetown last July, the commission cited noise, odor, dust, truck traffic and other factors in CleanBay’s proposed industrial use so close to the CHEER Community Center, Sussex Academy and Sports at the Beach youth sports facility.

The town of Georgetown had also expressed concerns about the truck traffic generated by the proposed facility, noting truck traffic through the town is restricted and SR 9 is a single-lane roadway with one lane and limited shoulders in each direction.

The CleanBay’s application was withdrawn and never made it to county council.

Ms. Breasure emphasized truck traffic was not the only issue.

“I took my chicken houses down. I burned my chicken houses because I lived in chicken manure as a young girl. I worked in a chicken house. I know how it smells. And here I’m getting it right back at 67 years old,” said Mr. Breasure. “This is my family farm. And it’s been de-valuated. (Tuesday) they de-valuated the land that I have. They are not de-valuating theirs.”

“We weren’t just concerned about the traffic. There were a lot more things,” Ms. Breasure said, noting she has paid taxes in this county for many years. “I was a teacher for 45 years.  Now, I am getting slapped in the face. I guess it’s just me but I’m sick of it. That’s the way people feel about government anymore. There is nothing we can do.”

“And then this man from Maryland comes in and we have to take his word that it’s not going smell or affect our water … and he probably hasn’t even paid a dime (in taxes),” Ms. Breasure added.

Mr. Arlett posed a question regarding the Delaware Department of Transportation’s involvement. “Because this is a requirement, if DelDOT does not comply with this requirement, what happens?” Mr. Arlett asked.

“Then they would not be able to build on this site because we are stating there will be no entrance to or from Breasure Road,’” said J. Everett Moore Jr., the county’s attorney.

“So, therefore, we are forcing them to make that decision, or this application is null and void,” Mr. Arlett said.

“Correct,” Mr. Moore replied.

“And that road must be built before they can start,” said Mr. Wilson.

With Breasure Road removed from truck traffic with the condition limiting access solely via DuPont Boulevard, council approved an amendment that deleted a previous requirement which stated there shall be no more than 12 deliveries of materials per day.

The limit of 12 truck deliveries per day was part of planning and zoning’s recommendations when allowing Breasure Road as the entrance.

Sussex County Planning and Zoning Director Janelle Cornwell said under the proposal the plant would operate 24 hours a day with truck deliveries limited to specific times. The proposed hours for truck deliveries – 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday – was not changed.

While many residents voiced opposition at the hearing, Delaware’s Department of Agriculture, Delmarva Poultry Industry and the Delaware Center for Inland Bays supported the CleanBay Renewable proposal.

Founded in 2013, CleanBay Renewables bills this process in a fully-enclosed system as a way to address a local waste stream by creating renewable energy in such a way that protects the Chesapeake Bay, provides for local farmers and strengthens the electrical power grid.

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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