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Commissioners OK biofuel plant construction

May 06, 2023May 06, 2023

Tomeka Sinclair The Robesonian

Robeson County commissioners Judy Sampson, left, and Pauline Campbell hear information about a brown grease biofuels recycling plant proposal during a hearing held at a business meeting on Tuesday.

LUMBERTON — Robeson County could see a biofuel recycling plant in the near future.

The commissioners learned of a relatively new business model prior to approving the issuing of a special-use permit to allow for the establishment of a brown grease biofuels recycling plant in a Residential Agricultural R-A District. The plant will be located on part of a 138.67-acre tract on N.C. 904 near Fairmont.

According to Steve Powell, an owner and engineer of MicroGreen Technologies Inc. in South Carolina, the site will include a plant facility that will contain pumps, an ozone generator room, a decanter centrifuge, and a 4,000-gallon sludge buffer tank among other equipment.

The treatment plant will receive bulk shipments of grease trap waste, trucked in mostly from chain restaurants or other businesses that dispose of an excess of grease waste. Powell said once waste reaches the plant, its odor will then be treated with an ozone-type technology that can also reduce the waste's strength. Once the treatment process is complete, the grease will be recycled into a biofuel that will be sold mostly to customers in the northeast.

The plant will also produce and sell sod and leftover sludge for fertilizing purposes.

Powell said this business model would be the first of its kind in the southeast and he has plans to gather enough data in the next six months to patent the idea.

"We believe we’re the first business in the southeast that's going to receive and treat grease trap waste in the way we’re treating it," Powell said.

The county's community development director Dixon Ivey Jr. told commissioners that the Planning Board has not gotten any negative feedback on the business, just questioning on what it is.

"This is a first for our area," Ivey said. "I looked at all of the DEQ (Department of Environmental Quality) material that they furnished. Everything looks in line with past projects that I’ve worked on where we’re dealing with this type of stuff. That's about all I know about it."

Ivey did note that businesses like these do not have a long lifespan so asked that a condition for the permit would be that the owner would agree to a decommissioning bond.

Commissioners approve mobile home expansion

A monthslong effort to stop the expansion of a mobile home park and the establishment of a solid waste business came to an end Tuesday with another win for Terry Pate, the owner of TD Pate Investments.

Robeson County commissioners voted unanimously to approve a request to issue a tabled request by Pate for a special-use permit to expand his mobile home business with the condition that he adheres to the Robeson County Department of Transportation's mandate to include a turn lane.

Pate's initial request was amended to not include the solid waste business and to instead add an additional eight homes to the request to add 19 more homes, bringing the total to 27 additional mobile homes at the park on N.C. 72 Pembroke.

"I would like to say I’ve been doing this a long time for 35 to 40 years," Pate told commissioners.

Pate said with each and every park, house, or apartment "there's one thing I always do, I always make it better than I found it. In most cases tremendously better and nothing different on this."

Speaking out against the action was the McArthur family, who argued that the expansion of the mobile home park and solid waste business would further diminish the value of their black-owned century-old farm that neighbors Pate's property.

Teresa Harlee, speaking on behalf of the family asked board members to again table the matter because although the item was tabled previously to Tuesday's meeting, the permit request was not included on Tuesday's agenda until county commissioners amended the agenda at the top of the meeting.

"The last time we were here they stated that they wanted to hear from my uncle Booker T. McAuther Jr., who is the administrator for our land and he was coming but we were told that he was not on the agenda for tonight," she said.

Commissioner Judy Sampson put forth the motion to approve, stating that the county did put out proper notice that the matter would be heard at the Feb. 20 meeting.

Other matters

Commissioners also approved the modification of the county's Zoning Ordinance to create a zone for treatment and rehabilitation facilities in Robeson County.

"We really didn't have anything on the records that made a lot of sense," Ivey said. "Myself and my staff were tasked to put this together.

The modification includes amending the Robeson County Zoning Ordinance to add Section 3.22, 4.3 and 13.2 which all reflect language about the addition of an Office and Institutional Overlay District.

In other businesses, commissioners approved the issuance of a special-use permit to Angelica Elizabeth Garcia Ramos and her husband Cristobal Garcia Ayala to operate an automobile junkyard and graveyard and recycling "pick-n-pull" in a Residential Agricultural District R-A on a nearly 30-acre tract on N.C. 301 N.

The board made the decision after the couple answered a series of questions about the business model and agreed to the conditions which included adding signage, specific operational hours, an annual inspection, and capping the number of vehicles allowed on the site to 250.

Garcia Ramos translating for her husband did tell commissioners they were concerned with the maximum number of vehicles permitted and asked that the number be increased to up to 400.

Ivey told commissioners that the requirement is in the county's Zoning Ordinance.

Community Development planner Meagan Hendran said that the maximum was made to ensure that the properties stay "tidy."

Commissioner David Edge told Hendren he thought with the amount of space on the tract, the owners should be able to keep the property organized with as many as 1,000 vehicles.

The matter was approved without mention of an amendment to the increase in the maximum vehicle.

The commissioners also approved a special-use permit request that would allow for the placement of a third dwelling on an R-A District on U.S. 301 near St. Pauls.

Tomeka Sinclair is the features editor for The Robesonian. She can be reached at [email protected] or 910-416-5865.

Commissioners approve mobile home expansion Other matters