A request from Visteon Corp./ Hoosier Energy to build a $30 million landfill-gas-to-energy facility at Grace Lake Corporate Center was tabled by the Van Buren Township Planning Commission on Jan. 26 after more than three hours of discussion.
The request is expected to be voted on at the next meeting of the commission at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 9.
The applicants are asking for a special land use recommendation to the township board, and preliminary site plan and tree permit approvals.
The 1.5-acre site for the facility is on the south side of Ecorse Road between I-275 and Hannan Road, on the far west side of the Grace Lake Corporate Center (previously known as Visteon Village).
One of the hang-ups is that Visteon is asking for special land use, but it has yet to follow through on a promise it made when Visteon Village was being constructed, that of conveying Visteon Way to the county, since it was paid for with public funds.
The township also wants public access to four parcels along Visteon Way not owned by Visteon so they can be developed in the future.
Jeff Stander of Ameresco, which bought the landfill gas rights from Waste Management nine years ago, led the discussion for the project.
He said that the developers of the project are not part of the Visteon Way issue, but that Visteon would comply “tomorrow” if it didn’t have to give four access points. Visteon would give two, Stander said he was told.
The commissioners asked for information before the next meeting, so they can make their decision, including:
• Something solid from Visteon that they are going to do what they are supposed to do;
• Information on stack heights and direction the possibly toxic emissions would be blowing. Also, the positions of the air intakes on the office buildings to the east and the air emissions on the facility to its west;
• Clarification on whether the project actually qualifies for special use in the Office Technology zoning district. Planning consultant Sally Hodges gave two opposite opinions on this in May and January, according to documents presented by residents; and
• Presentation of a synopsis of EPA emission standards.
Township Treasurer Sharry Budd, who sits on the commission as a voting member and liaison from the board, said, “This is probably the hardest decision we’ve had for this commission. We live here, like you do. We care.”
She spoke in response to comments from residents.
“It’s a good project. I have a problem with the site,” Budd said.
“I agree with commissioner Budd,” said commission chairwoman Carol Thompson. “This is easiest one of the township’s two most difficult decisions.” She said the other one was the industrial park that went up behind her home, which she voted for.
“I voted on it positively because of the groundwork McKenna and our staff brought to the table.”
As to the landfill-gas-to-energy project before the commission now, “My brain tells me we can make this use work. My heart is with the residents… We want to make sure there is minimal to zero impact.”
She said the township pays professionals that they trust, but, “Vibrations, odor, emissions. I’m not sure we’ve gone as far as we can.”
She said it’s hard to study when a facility like the one that would be erected doesn’t exist.
After a five-minute recess as the clock neared 11 p.m., the commission decided to get more information before taking its vote at the next meeting.
A group of residents attended the meeting and some spoke up about their concerns about the noise, emissions, and vibrations.
John Delaney spoke at length about his belief that the newly approved sewage sludge being added to the Waste Management Woodland Meadows landfill is part of the planned cogeneration facility to get more fuel for electricity generation.
While Stander said the cogeneration plant for VBT has been in the works for 15 months, Delaney presented a newsletter from Hoosier Energy that said it has been working on this facility for three years.
Delaney said former director of planning and economic development Bryce Kelley and others knew about it for a long time and, in fact, Kelley was at the site visit by Hoosier investors last fall.
The Hoosier Energy “EnergyLines” newsletter for January 2011 reads: “Construction of the Woodland Meadows facility will take place throughout 2011” and “Work began late in the year on an 11-megawatt landfill methane generation project near the Detroit, Michigan airport…”
Budd and Thompson denied that the township board or planning commission knew about it in 2007 and that the residents seem to know more about the project than the commissioners did when it first was introduced.