The City Council isn’t fooling around on April 1, with its jam-packed meeting agenda to include three public hearings — NOVI Energy’s much-discussed digester plant proposal, Brooks Brothers incentives and the construct a 72-unit apartment complex are all on the docket.
The hearings will occur at 7 p.m. this Tuesday at the City Hall Auditorium.
The first hearing will be on a conditional use request by NOVI Carolina Digester I, LLC, to construct a green electrical production facility located along Industrial Drive in a PID (Planned Industrial District). The request is continued from February.
In recent weeks, NOVI Energy representatives have been out in the community to explain the plant’s operations and educate a populous they hope will support the green company, which proposes to build the nation’s second commercial-scale anaerobic digester in the nation, a 4.3-megawatt power plant, in the Sampson Southeast Business Center.
The plant will digest organic waste into bio-methane, which fuels engine-generators to generate renewable energy.
Since NOVI’s possible location was first announced in November, many nearby Clinton residents and industry leaders who would be neighbors with the plant have voiced opposition. Some residents in Fremont, Mich., home of the nation’s first anaerobic digester, the 3-megawatt Fremont Community Digester, have not done much to assuage fears of noise and smell that may emanate from the plant, while others in Michigan have stood firmly behind the industry.
Jim Zimmer, NOVI’s site manager for N.C. development projects, noted Fremont’s start-up woes in 2012 during a public meeting last week, but asserted those problems have been solved.
“The Fremont plant has taught us a few lessons,” he said, noting redesigns implemented for Clinton’s plant expected to shore up issues. “ We will have some start-up issues in Clinton, guaranteed, but we will not have as many as we had in Fremont because we were able to learn those lessons and incorporate those into the new design.”
Mostly hog waste will be used as feedstock for the plant. There would be no poultry litter, no feathers and no dead animals used, Zimmer noted.
All feedstock unloading occurs indoors and all plant buildings are negatively pressurized to prevent odors from escaping the buildings. A bio-filter — in Fremont, it is a three-story mass filled with wood chips, and would be larger in Clinton — specifically engineered to scrub odors from the air also ensures any odors from within the plant do not escape outside.
Many locals have raised concerns about the location, several hundred yards from homes. Company officials looked at a dozen sites before narrowing it down to Industrial Drive, which has the needed access to power lines and natural gas, Zimmer noted. He said the company would make sure transports, about 50 trucks a day, happen during non-peak traffic hours.
NOVI’s intention, he said, was to be a good neighbor.
“If we thought this was going to be bad, we would not be trying to do this,” Zimmer said. “We’re not looking to bring something in here that is going to destroy property values, or the health or safety of anybody. We’re not looking to do something that is dangerous or harmful in any way.”
Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the Council will hold a public hearing to receive public comment concerning proposed appropriations and expenditures for a possible expansion by Brooks Brothers. Under the proposed agreement, the city will provide up to $8,500 in business incentive payments to the company over a five-year period.
Earlier this month, the Sampson Board of Commissioners unanimously approved offering grant back incentives to Brooks Brothers, which has two facilities in Sampson, one of them being a distribution center in Clinton. The Garland Shirt Factory is the other.
For Brooks Brothers, the expansion project would bring taxable investment of nearly $5 million ($3.7 million in Garland, $1.3 million in Clinton) over five years and the creation of 84 full-time jobs (56 at the Clinton Distribution Center at an average salary of $22,700, 28 at the Garland Shirt Factory at an average salary of $33,000).
“In our Garland Shirt Factory, we see a need in the marketplace to produce more U.S. made products,” John Martynec, senior vice president for U.S. manufacturing for Brooks Brothers, stated in a letter to the board. “At the Clinton Distribution Center, we see that facility playing a larger role in Brooks Brothers’ overall product distribution strategy. This center supports our wholesale and our online business but could play a large role in shipments to Latin America.”
As part of its incentive agreement, the county will garner $85,172 in additional revenue for the first 10 years after 41 percent total grant back incentives — $60,000 — to be paid out in the first five.
Brooks Brothers’ Garland factory currently employees 270 full-time employees and six temporary employees. At the Clinton site, located on Warsaw Road, there are currently 48 full-time and 30 temporary employees.
Tuesday’s third public hearing will be on a conditional use request by Greenway Residential Development LLC, which has requested a conditional use permit to construct a 72-unit apartment complex along the 400 block of Overland Road, in a RA-20 (Residential Agriculture) district.
Copies of the Greenway and NOVI requests and maps are available for inspection in the Clinton-Sampson Planning offices at 227 Lisbon St. Those wishing to speak at the hearing are asked to contact the City Clerk, at 910-592-1961, in advance of the meeting.
Additional information on the Brooks Brothers proposal can be obtained from City manager Shawn Purvis, at 910-592-1961 Ext. 3003. Those wishing to make written comments concerning the subject should submit them to City Clerk, P.O. Box 199, Clinton, N.C. 28329, or by fax to 910-590-3127.
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at email@example.com.