08/31/08 — Fibrowatt silent on Faison ETJ concerns

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Fibrowatt silent on Faison ETJ concerns

By Steve Herring
Published in News on August 31, 2008 10:53 AM

FAISON -- Friday marks six weeks since the Town of Faison made its latest proposal in its months-long negotiations with Fibrowatt over control of the town's extra-territorial jurisdiction. And each of those six weeks has gone by without a response.

"We have extended an offer to them and we have not had any response at this time," Faison Mayor Elmer Flake said Thursday. "I don't know what the holdup is. We are just going to wait."

The town's ETJ extends into neighboring Sampson County where plans are to build a $200 million Fibrowatt biomass-fired power plant.

Fibrowatt, a Pennsylvania-based company, wants the town to relinquish control of its zoning authority.

Flake has said the town has no intentions of giving up the ETJ, nor the town-owned water/sewer system that services 18 households in the area.

Flake has declined comment on the closed-door negotiations. However, he said that "safeguards and conditions" are being sought by the town.

Meanwhile, the longer the wait, the stronger the opposition to the proposed plant grows, he said.

That, Flake said, is evidenced by the protest signs sprouting along town streets and near the proposed site close to the intersection of Interstate 40 and N.C. 403 about three miles west of Faison.

"I have talked to people in the area and more are opposed to it," Flake said.

He acknowledged that some are still in favor of the project.

The town has been asked to oppose the plant as well.

But since the town is still in negotiations it cannot do so, he said.

"We are still trying to work with them," Flake said. "We have gone back and forth on offers and counteroffers."

At one point Duplin County had been in the running for the new plant.

Sampson County was settled on last April after the proposal ran into heavy opposition in Duplin because the plant would burn poultry litter. Sampson County has promised some $2.5 million in property tax breaks for the plant that is expected to create about 100 jobs.

Approximately 90 percent of the site resides inside the Faison ETJ.

Flake said Sampson County already has rezoned its portion of the site.

"I have no idea of their requirements," he said. "I do not know what their rezoning is or the conditions are. If it (plant) moves outside the ETJ we have no control."

Flake said Fibrowatt wants to deal with one, not two zoning authorities.

The town's extra-territorial jurisdiction was extended to the area in the early 1990s after residents along the Eldon Thornton Road started a push to obtain water and sewer. At that time Sampson County did not offer those services in the area, and still doesn't.

Flake said the town remains interested in providing water and sewer to the new plant.

The town has had no response on that issue either, he said.

In an earlier interview, Flake explained that Faison had been asked to rezone the area in its ETJ from commercial to industrial. The town also has been asked to relinquish zoning control and not to annex the area.