Sunday, June 21, 2009

Tyranny of the Few??

Today's hot topic, on everyone's mind and keyboards, is the latest coverage of the Chestnut Hill Biofuel proposed plant. I came into this backwards today, reading the responses on Facebook before reading the article in today's Republican American, so I'm entering the discussion a little late in the game.

For me, what stood out most is the quote by Michael Maynard of Chestnut Hill, “I feel this was the tyranny of the few, a small handful of people decided to do whatever they needed to do to make sure this wouldn’t see light of day.”

Up until this point, I had been willing to consider that a better-suited location in Waterbury would be appropriate for Chestnut Hill, a location not in the densely-populated center of town (seriously, why would you put a garbage plant in the middle of town?). After reading that quote, however, I feel very strongly that I do not want to see Chestnut Hill in Waterbury. They clearly have no respect for the concerns of the community they would be moving into, already demonstrating an arrogance that will almost certainly cause trouble down the road, especially considering what happened in New Jersey.

Waterbury's residents have every right to be concerned about Chestnut Hill. Their facility in New Jersey was shut down by the DEP following complaints about the stench and citations for polluting the air and the water. We're trying to get rid of pollution in Waterbury, not increase it.

I wonder what exactly Maynard thinks is the "tyranny of the few" that has, presumably unfairly in his mind, derailed the proposed biofuel plant. Chestnut Hill has been given ample opportunity to present their side of the story. While there certainly may have been one or two people who were automatically opposed to the plan without having examined the facts, I think that the vast majority have carefully weighed the situation before coming out in opposition.

The former Anamet factory on South Main Street is a terrible location for anything that has the potential to produce air and water pollution, and it is a terrible location for added truck traffic. To my knowledge, Chestnut Hill has not yet given us any reason to believe that the problems in New Jersey won't be repeated here. How, then, can they dare to be offended when the city's residents and political leaders choose to oppose them? That's not the tyranny of the few, that's the voice of the people.


Bryan P. Baker said...

I think it's obvious that the few that Mr. Maynard is talking about is Mr. DePillo. Say what you will, he was the first one to come up with the number of 400 trucks a day. Also, the amount of time Mr. DePillo spends in front of a microphone makes him an easy target.

Regardless, there is enough wrong with the proposal for all in Waterbury to oppose it.

Anonymous said...

To play the devil's advocate, I disagree that "the vast majority have carefully weighed the situation before coming out in opposition." I have no interest or affiliation with the project, and I haven't attended the meetings, but I have kept up on the news articles and read countless attacks against the facility. All of these attacks keep bringing up the same talking points about odor and traffic. It all sounds the same, as if people aren't really weighing it out. Chestnut Hill has said repeatedly that the odor problem will be contained by some sort of airtight composting component that was not a part of the NJ plant. That's the answer they give. Maybe the company is lying, in which case no answer would satisfy the opposition. I'd say the reason that you would believe them is simply that they are seeking out approval from DEP right off the bat to use this airtight, odor-reducing component (I won't pretend to understand what it is).

The NJ plant was also a much different situation. It was the largest of its kind on the East Coast, and they actually had piles of organic materials out in the open, which is not in any part of this proposal.

The argument about excessive truck traffic also sounds exagerrated, and besides, there are ways to alleviate truck problems if they arise.

Lastly, considering that this really is an industrial area of the City; full of blighted, abandoned, and unsafe factories, I can't see how this would be detrimental to the greenway. In it's current state, it's an eyesore and poses a real safety concern for greenway users. Chestnut Hill has said that they will work with the greenway group and would be happy to provide access. Who's to say they wouldn't agree to do some nice landscaping along the greenway right-of-way? Maybe they would have even played a role in neighborhood revitalization. Has anyone asked these questions?

I just think that it's sad that people come out in such strong opposition over something like this when this kind of blighted property doesn't have much other development potential. I think it's good that Chestnut Hill chose a developed property in Waterbury for their business rather than an undeveloped lot on the outskirts or another town altogether. Perhaps we'll get a big-box pharmacy chain and an auto parts store to bring in low-paying retail jobs, and build a nice big parking lot where people can work on their cars and have discarded shopping bags blowing around to the delight of greenway users.