‘zero waste doesn’t mean zero pollution,’ activist says

A 76-acre recycling plant proposed for the city’s southeast side with a 140-foot smelting tower and six other buildings higher than the the 50 feet allowed in that area has drawn opposition from neighboring farmers and residents.

The proposal came in front of the Fort Wayne Plan Commission Monday night, even though the property – sold by the city to Exurban, a UK-owned firm for $768,000 – seems to sit in a rural zone removed from any urban area.

Exurban, who is seeking a height waiver, will return to the Plan Commission Oct. 17 in hopes of receiving commission approval.

Residents are concerned about pollution from the recycling plant and what it would look like to have a facility like that in a relatively peaceful, agricultural setting. There are some industrial sites north on Adams Center Road, but not at the density proposed by Exurban, a recycling company with headquarters in London, England.

Across Adams Center Road is the Allen County Sheriff’s training facility, a site that has had its own controversy as the current site proposed for a new county jail. The intersection is at Adams Center and Paulding roads, where a farm field sits across the road and a residence is on the southeast corner.

City Councilwoman Sharon Tucker attended Monday’s meeting. She said she’s receiving emails from residents who are concerned about the environmental impact and the height of the buildings

“For me to be 100% supportive of the project, I would like to see a little bit more information,” Tucker said.  “The residents who spoke out had some very valid concerns. And while this is a new idea that’s coming, a lot of things haven’t been tested or proven, and so we don’t have any knowledge of what the environmental impact could be for the residents in the community, not just the 6th district, but also those in New Haven.”

Tucker said additional research is needed, including “what kind of visual exposure” the facility would be because of the height of the building.  

“There are so many unknown factors. It’s hard to say whether or not this project is right for the community. I want developers and anyone that interested in locating their business southeast  Fort Wayne to understand that we’re not just a ‘no’. We’re looking for the right development, a solid development that will promote additional development within our community.”

The parcel has been vacant for a long time and is a zoned industrial. Even if it is an enclosed refinery, as the company says, it has caused concern. But as one resident said – it’s not just about jobs, but about jobs that don’t impact the health of the citizens.

Exurban has said it will be investing $300 million to build the plant and hire up to 200 people with jobs that pay $50,000 to $70,000.

In April, owners Wes Anderson and Jean-Paul Deco said a lot of American scrap metal is shipped overseas. This facility would keep the material here to be used again.  The facility will use nuclear power from AEP and there will be “zero waste.”

Ty Simmons, an activist and agricultural teacher and farmer on the southeast side, is currently opposing the facility.

“Zero waste doesn’t mean zero pollution,” Simmons said.