Danville biodiesel facility zoning change OK'd

Danville biodiesel facility zoning change OK'd

DANVILLE — A biodiesel production facility in Danville got the zoning change it needed Tuesday night for possible expansion of its 45 million gallon facility.

With a 13-0 vote, Danville aldermen reversed an earlier decision by the city's planning and zoning commission, which had voted in June to not recommend a request from Renewable Energy Group Inc. to rezone from residential to industrial several lots that the Iowa-based alternative-fuel company has purchased adjacent to its plant at 300 Anderson St., east of downtown Danville, for possible expansion.

REG officials have said there's no specific plan for the property at this time.

And they said Tuesday night that's the reason they did not take the advice of city officials earlier this year and meet with residents in the neighborhood prior to the planning and zoning meeting in June. As a result, several residents spoke out against the rezoning request at that meeting, and with no information about the company's plans, the planning and zoning commission did not recommend REG's request.

Scott Hedderich, director of corporate affairs for REG, told Danville aldermen at Tuesday night's council meeting that the decision not to meet with neighbors was a mistake.

"That was dumb. There's no other way to put it," Hedderich said.

Since the planning and zoning meeting, REG officials have hosted a neighborhood meeting at a local church and also met one-on-one with residents in their homes, telling them the company's possibilities for expansion and ways to screen their properties from the plant if it were expanded.

Anthony Thomas, who lives near the plant, said he was one of the residents upset and angry at the planning and zoning meeting. He said residents "had a bad vibe" at first, mostly due to misunderstandings and a lack of information from the company, but that has changed.

"We've gotten a lot of our fears and questions answered since then," Thomas said, who spoke in support of REG's zoning request at Tuesday's city council meeting. "Since that first meeting, we've had good, productive conversations."

No one spoke against the rezoning Tuesday night, and Hedderich assured aldermen that the company will continue to communicate with residents and consider their suggestions in creating a buffer between residences and the plant if it's expanded.

REG has 10 biorefineries across the country, including in Danville, and is a leading North American producer of biodiesel, converting natural fats, oils and greases into fuel. The Danville plant, which employs about 33 people, has the capacity to produce 45 million gallons of biodiesel per year, and is operating close to that limit. REG officials will not disclose details about possibilities for expansion, but Bruce Lutes, general manager of the Danville plant, said more storage, maintenance and office space is needed, but there could be other expansion, too.

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