There’s a question remaining over how a former pickle plant will be turned into a chicken processing facility.
A Superior Court judge will decide whether the Sussex County Board of Adjustments skipped steps when it issued a permit to a proposed chicken processing plant.
Richard Abbott, an attorney representing the Protecting Our Indian River group, argued during a hearing before Judge Richard Stokes on Tuesday, that the board did not properly collect public input before issuing the permit to Allen Harim Foods.
The Korean-based company could process as many as two million chickens a week at the facility located at the old Vlasic pickle plant just outside of Millsboro.
“The code requires a public hearing on applications,” Abbot explained. “They [the board] re-opened the record and they solicited all these comments from state agencies but then they didn’t permit people to come to the September 23 meeting and comment on them.”
Abbott also said the board failed to consult with “essential agencies” such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Delaware Center for Inland Bays and the Delaware Division of Public Health, before issuing the permit.
Chris Bason, executive director of the Delaware Center for Inland Bays said representatives from Allen Harim presented ideas for the plant at two meetings.
“We are very much interested,” Bason said. “Before we make any kind of position, we would need to see a hard proposal.”
Many questions remain about the environmental factors that come with the massive plant.
Cindy Wilton, a member of the Protecting Our Indian River group, lives about a half mile from the site.
Wilton and hundreds of other residents in the Millsboro area, are concerned about the contaminants the plant would add to the Indian River through waste water. She’s also concerned about the smell and air quality from the millions of birds that would be kept across the street.
“It’s our health, it’s our environment, it’s our way of life,” she said.
Despite the resistance from neighbors, Allen Harim Foods announced last month that completed the purchase of the former pickle plant from Pinnacle Foods. The company plans to initially use the 470,000 square foot complex as a warehouse and storage facility.
The company has said it would spend $100 million to get the plant up and running and could hire up to 700 employees at the new facility.
Judge Stokes has 90 days to file his decision. He could either uphold or overturn the Board of Adjustment’s plan.