Tuesday, March 4, 2008

CTBiodisel in Suffield - Thumbs Up

New, cutting-edge company, environmentally friendly, working toward American energy independence, offering good jobs, huge tax dollars, located in an industrial park - any takers?

CTBiodiesel has proposed building a facility in Suffield that will produce 50million gallons of biodiesel annually. The proposed site is located on 17 acres of an industrial park,adjacent to a rail line, with easy access to I-91 and in the flight path of Bradley International. This will be the first commercial-scale biodiesel facility in Connecticut.

CTBiodiesel will bring 38 good paying jobs and expects to be the largest taxpayer in the community, estimating about $400,000 in taxes each year. The company has promised to offer all jobs to Suffield residents first. The facility would also grant the town a gift of 35,000 gallons of biodiesel fuel, and contractually obligate tractor trailer trucks to only use the state-owned Route 75 and Route 20 while entering or leaving the facility.

Sounds like a slam dunk that any community would advocate to have in their town, right? Wrong. Here is a perfect example of fear, misinformation, lies, NIMBYism, and mob mentality lashing out against a smart project.

The company is now before the Zoning and Planning Commission (ZPC - elected) and will have their third public hearing this Thursday at 7PM in Suffield High School's auditorium. The opposition to the proposal is known as KnowBio, but appears to know little about biodiesel production. They have spread lies, fear, and innuendo to anyone who would listen and appear to be working under the theory that if you yell loud enough, it won't matter what you are saying.

Bill Shipp at Suffield Forum has done a wonderful job of addressing the science and all of the local opposition and is definitely worth a read.

And let me address here the debate as to whether biodiesel is good for the environment or not. There is a war going on in the “green” movement. Anytime you see an article using the word biofuels, it’s a tip off that something negative is about to be written, where the issue is really mostly about corn-based ethanol – where legitimate debate between fuel and food is raged. When you see a headline that uses the word biodiesel, at least you know that the writer is not trying to blur the distinction to make a point. In this ongoing “duel of the studies and universities” we mostly cannot influence it other than to inform people of two things. First, all biodiesel can be termed biofuel, but not all biofuel is biodiesel (most biofuel is ethanol by a wide margin). Second, oil is a byproduct of growing soybeans, the main product and the most valuable is the soybean meal – therefore, growing soybeans for biodiesel production actually increases the amount of food that is available rather than reducing it.

I have read extensively about this project, been to the public hearings and read all press accounts and believe this is the perfect example of a win win for land use, the environment, the host community, and the State of Connecticut as a whole. The only outrage that should be harbored should be directed at those trying to stop this worthy project.

Stratford Army Engine Plant - OPPORTUNITY

Stratford has a tremendous opportunity to jump start its local economy and decide what face it will put on for the rest of the world with the now vacant Stratford Army Engine Plant on the auction block.

The opportunity is the reason why this is the inaugural post on SmartLandCT. The impact on the community, the environment, the economy, and a host of other factors must be pondered as this project - whatever form it may take - moves forward. Let's hope all parties involved make Smart Land choices for CT.

The property is being marketed as Point Stratford by Cushman & Wakefield is described as:

Point Stratford, formerly known as the Stratford Army Engine Plant in Stratford, Connecticut, is an extraordinary 78 acre redevelopment opportunity in Fairfield County. The Department of the Army and the General Services Administration are offering the brownfield property for sale on an “as is” basis, transferring all environmental remediation obligations to the buyer.Point Stratford offers developers and investors a rare opportunity to secure a large development site in Fairfield County, one of the most significant waterfront assets in Connecticut, within minutes of I-95.Currently improved with 1.72 million square feet, in three main buildings and nearly 50 outbuildings, Point Stratford is located within two miles of three exits of I-95, adjacent to Sikorsky Memorial Airport. Near the confluence of the Housatonic River and Long Island Sound, and offering direct access to both bodies of water, the site occupies 78 acres of uplands with riparian rights along its entire waterfront. Located in a designated Defense Plant Zone, the property is afforded Enterprise Zone benefits, entitling eligible businesses to substantial economic incentives.

There is apparently a lot of interest in this remarkable property from all over the world and a bidder's conference was held last November. Could Stratford become the true Hollywood East by converting this property into studio space? Could big manufacturing possibly start its comeback at this site, where over 10,000 people were once employed? The site is probably too contaminated for residential use, and the Steel Point project is only miles away in Bridgeport, so more mixed use office/retail/residential seems difficult to sustain. What else would work well here? Located less than two miles from Metro North, and less than 50 miles from NYC, the possibilities are great.