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Officials Delay Vote on Proposed West Louisville Biodigester Plant

J. Tyler Franklin

After deliberating until 2 a.m. Tuesday morning, city zoning officials said they need more time before deciding whether to approve a permit for a controversial green energy plant slated for West Louisville.

Members of Louisville’s Board of Zoning Adjustment are considering whether to give Indiana-based STAR BioEnergy a conditional use permit to build and operate a biodigester plant that will turn waste from the Heaven Hill distillery into methane gas.

The project is proposed for 17th and Maple streets in the California neighborhood.

After a marathon meeting in which dozens of West Louisville residents spoke out against the plan, along with Metro Councilman David James and state Rep. Tom Riner, board members unanimously agreed to look at the issue again next month. Some members said there were still too many unknowns to vote early Tuesday.

The committee heard testimonies, presentations and public comment for more than eight hours during the nighttime meeting. West Louisville resident Martina Nichols Kunnecke, who has been an activist opposed to the proposed plant, said she thinks it’s a good sign for the opposition.

“It’s a sign that people are not really sold on the idea, and it is also an indicator of the strength of the neighborhood,” she said.

Kunnecke said she feels cautiously optimistic that the neighbors are being heard.

“I think that I would have preferred that they decided against it today, of course, but it’s a good sign that they are looking at some of the issues that were raised,” she said.

Mayor Greg Fischer and some West Louisville leaders, including the Rev. Kevin Cosby of Simmons College and St. Stephen Church, have been vocal in their support for the project. Fischer and Cosby earlier this year worked out a deal with STAR Bioenergy so that the company would provide $5 million for community projects in the area, including a building for Simmons.

The next meeting on the issue will be held on Jan. 21.