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Hundreds show up for ethanol plant meeting

March 30, 2005|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

SCOTLAND, PA. - As the overflow crowd outside chanted "We can't hear," a joint public meeting Monday night of the boards of supervisors of Greene and Letterkenny townships concerning a proposed ethanol plant was adjourned to another time and a larger place.

Approximately 400 people, many wearing "No Ethanol Plant in Franklin County" T-shirts, attended the meeting. Those unable to squeeze inside the meeting room of the Greene Township Municipal Building stood outside.

Shortly after the meeting began, Greene Township resident Jeff Wiley suggested it be adjourned until a larger venue could be found. The suggestion was met with a loud round of applause.

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The townships' supervisors set a new meeting date of Thursday, April 28, with a site to be determined later, possibly at Scotland Elementary School.

"There's been a lot of talk out there that this is a done deal," said Charles D. Jamison Jr., chairman of the Greene Township Board of Supervisors. "I assure you this is not a done deal."

Jamison said his board will not consider any plans submitted by Penn-Mar Ethanol, the York, Pa., partnership planning the $80 million plant, "until you people are heard."

Hearing, however, was a problem, with a number of people shouting questions at the supervisors. People outside had difficulty hearing questions and responses.

Before adjourning, the supervisors fielded several questions, which Jamison asked also be put in writing so Penn-Mar Ethanol could provide written responses at a future meeting.

Frederic G. Antoun Jr., legal counsel for Citizens for a Quality Environment, likened the process to a fox swearing in court he did not eat any chickens.

"We're the chickens and we're asking the fox to answer our questions," Antoun said.

Jamison said the townships must follow a legal process to approve or disapprove land development plans as set down in the Pennsylvania Municipal Planning Code.

"We are the township, not you," one man said. "We hired the township (supervisors) to do what we want you to."

Welton Fischer, Greene Township's attorney, said the supervisors have to follow state law. "We don't have arbitrary authority to say you can't come here" to any project that meets township zoning and land development ordinances.

Penn-Mar Ethanol, a group of investors from Pennsylvania and Maryland, recently signed a $2.24 million sales agreement with the Letterkenny Industrial Development Authority to purchase 55 acres in the Cumberland Valley Business Park as the site of a plant capable of annually turning 20 million bushels of corn into 60 million gallons of ethanol.

Once it submits a land development plan to Greene and Letterkenny townships, the supervisors have 90 days to approve or reject it, Jamison said. Most of the site and all of the structures would be in Greene Township, he said.

On Monday, Penn-Mar applied to Greene Township for variances to the industrial zone height limit of 45 feet for several structures, according to Dan Bachman, the assistant zoning officer. The zoning hearing board will meet Monday, April 18, to consider the request, he said.

Jamison said that meeting will have to go forward unless Penn-Mar agrees to a delay.

DeEtta Antoun, director of Citizens for a Quality Environment, said her organization will be at that meeting.

"It's not a victory. We didn't stop the ethanol plant yet," she said after the meeting. Even though her organization has collected more than 800 signatures of people said to oppose the plant, Antoun said the turnout surprised her.

"I did expect it to fill the room," she said. "I didn't expect it to fill the parking lot."

Scott Welsh, Penn-Mar's project manager, said opponents were able to generate big crowds when the group initially proposed building in Conoy Township in Lancaster County, Pa.

"The difference there was it was more of a formal hearing process ... a more structured environment," he said.

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