From Ginny Sherlock, renowned local attorney, civic activist, and former Associated Press editor:
A few weeks ago, proponents of the US EcoGen biomass project presented a planned renewable energy facility to the Board of County Commissioners with a plea for the BCC to initiate rush-rush Comprehensive Plan Amendments to allow the project to move forward.
The US EcoGen proponents warned that they would be unable to fulfill their obligations to provide power pursuant to a contract with Florida Power & Light if they had to wait for the normal Comp Plan Amendment cycle that all other private, for-profit entities must follow.
The BCC (except Commissioner Sarah Heard) decided to ignore the rules and move forward on the fast track that US EcoGen said was critical.
Tonight, US EcoGen told the Local Planning Agency: ”Let’s put a ‘hold’ on this proposal.”
US EcoGen sent planner Morris Crady to the LPA meeting without any consultants, owners, or other witnesses to testify at the advertised hearing on the Comp Plan Amendments and re-zoning application. The LPA was told that the proposal is not being withdrawn, but US EcoGen isn’t so sure it wants to move forward with the application after all.
Staff recommended denial of the application, which proposes Comp Plan land use and text changes to allow an industrial use (private power generation) outside the Urban Services District. This is not authorized by our Comp Plan, which requires industrial uses to be located where urban services are available.
Staff pointed out that there are at least 700 acres of available industrial land within the urban services district where the project could be built rather than the proposed site outside the USD .
But the US EcoGen planner said his client decided to ”step back” and take some time to re-think whether to move forward with the project based on staff’s recommendation for denial of the Comp Plan amendments. He said US EcoGen might look for another location, and he declined to offer testimony or evidence in support of the amendments.
The LPA voted to accept the staff report and send the US EcoGen proposals to the BCC with a recommendation for denial.
The amendments are already scheduled for the August 19 BCC meeting to be transmitted to the state for review under the rush-rush timetable that US EcoGen demanded and the BCC approved.
But just as US EcoGen insisted on ignoring the rules for submitting Comp Plan Amendment applications, the company appears to have little interest in following Martin County rules regarding the Urban Services Boundary.
Instead of saying “hurry up”, US EcoGen is now saying “never mind” and will re-consider when and whether to proceed.