Ethanol group files appeal to ruling

December 14, 2005|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The fight over a proposal to build an $85 million ethanol plant in the Cumberland Valley Business Park has moved to Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court after Penn-Mar Ethanol on Monday filed an appeal of a Franklin County judge's ruling that the plant would not be a permitted use in a heavy industrial zone.

"After reviewing the judge's opinion along with the Greene Township zoning ordinance, we firmly believe that our proposed use is permitted in the heavy industrial zone," Penn-Mar Project Manager Scott Welsh said in a statement issued Monday.

"Penn-Mar is still fully committed to the project and to the location at Cumberland Valley Business Park," Welsh said in the statement.


Frederic G. Antoun said Monday he learned earlier in the day that the appeal had been filed by the York, Pa.-based partnership, which in February announced it plans to build the plant.

Antoun represents Citizens for a Quality Environment and several individuals who appealed a May decision by the Greene Township Zoning Hearing Board that the plant would be a large-scale manufacturing facility and thus a permitted use in the business park.

The citizens group also appealed a variance granted by the zoning board to the 45-foot height limit in the township. On Nov. 23, Judge Richard J. Walsh issued an opinion and order, ruling that the zoning board had erred in granting the variance and in concluding that the plant would be a permitted use in the industrial zone.

"There was a significant amount of evidence presented at both the township level and before the Court of Common pleas" and Walsh issued a lengthy and detailed opinion, Antoun said. "We are confident the Commonwealth Court will reaffirm Judge Walsh's ruling."

The Penn-Mar release stated that Greene Township's zoning officer and the zoning board "after careful consideration of the facts ... determined that the Penn-Mar manufacturing facility is a permitted use." The statement cited the zoning ordinance as allowing within a heavy industrial district "the basic processing and manufacturing of materials or products predominantly from extracted or raw materials" and that "large-scale manufacturing plants" are permitted uses.

Walsh's Nov. 23 opinion stated township officials "after much massaging of the matter ... managed to 'conclude' that the use was permitted." Walsh went on to write in the opinion that an ethanol plant is not a specific permitted use in the ordinance.

Penn-Mar also disagrees with Walsh's conclusion that the height variance was improperly granted by the zoning board, according to the statement. Walsh had written that granting the variance could adversely affect the surrounding neighborhood and Letterkenny Army Depot.

"The Greene Township ordinance imposes height restrictions on buildings (such as office buildings), but not on structures," according to the Penn-Mar statement. It quoted from the ordinance that "Chimneys, towers, spires, elevator spires, tanks and similar appurtenant structures or equipment may project above the maximum building height."

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