Cape Gazette

Group seeks reversal of Allen Harim decision

Court brief claims county officials failed to garner information
By Ron MacArthur | Apr 30, 2014
Photo by: Ron MacArthur Allen Harim Foods has plans to convert this former Vlasic pickle plant into a poultry processing plant.

The Sussex County Board of Adjustment did not solicit and obtain input from relevant agencies when it granted approval of a special-use exception to Allen Harim Foods LLC, according to a brief filed in an ongoing lawsuit.

Allen Harim applied for the exception in an effort to buy the former Vlasic pickle plant and invest $100 million to convert it to poultry processing, employing about 700 people. The pickle plant closed in 2012 after decades of operation.

In answer to Allen Harim's March 31 brief, Protecting Our Indian River attorney Richard Abbott requested that Delaware Superior Court invalidate the board's approval based on procedural and legal errors. The April 16 brief notes the board lacked jurisdiction to approve the zoning request and provided insufficient oversight by approving a list of consultant agencies provided by Allen Harim.

According to Abbott, the board was required by law to obtain input from several agencies, including the Center for the Inland Bays, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Delaware Division of Public Health, in the interest of public health and water quality protection. “Instead, it did no consulting at all,” Abbott said. “The board improperly bypassed both the U.S. EPA and the Delaware General Assembly-created Center for the Inland Bays despite their expertise on the Harim facility’s environmental impact on the Indian River watershed under the National Estuary Program and the 1995 Comprehensive Management Plan,” Abbott said.

The brief also contends the board failed to provide proper public notice and conduct public hearings, as required by law.

In addition, Protecting our Indian River and Inland Bays Foundation have appealed to the Delaware Environmental Appeals Board a Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control secretary's order, which approves a remediation plan to monitor pollution at the 107-acre Vlasic site. A hearing on that issue will take place in May.

In an earlier brief, Allen Harim disputes the citizens group's assertion that the board inadequately scrutinized the application and did not seek necessary expert testimony from state environmental officials. Allen Harim attorneys contend the company has done due diligence during submission of the application.

“The applicant presented significant evidence that the public health, safety, morals and general welfare will be properly protected and that necessary safeguards will be provided for the protection of water areas or surrounding property,” the Allen Harim brief states.

Comments (3)
Posted by: Brian Peters | May 01, 2014 00:45

Unfortunately, binding commitments were made prematurely, publicized, and then celebrated by The Administration in this transaction. Not a huge surprise, really. The dysfunction to follow is expected when the "Top Executive" in an organization has little regard for Rules, Law, Regulation, and the leaders from within (the very branch of Government that falls under) his/its auspices. As the Top Executive issues vaporous promises (as in the April 2011 press release about Harim and the Pinnacle site) by implication, he orders his minions (Cabinet Secretaries) to "make this thing happen." In this case, fear becomes the only driving force for well-intentioned, publicly employed administrators, regulators, managers, and scientists. There is no greater testimony to negative effect of this 'executive micromanagement' condition than the defensiveness and absurd rationale that almost always follows in the publicly spoken words of otherwise dedicated and professional public servants. Exhibit 'A.' Quote from DNREC Secretary Colin O'Mara in response to challenges about the Secretary's Order that was hastily signed under his authority after the final  "wham, bam," public hearing:  :  “...residents and businesses large and small contribute to the problem .... We can talk about Allen Harim. ... There are significant pollution control standards that they need to meet for the inland bays. They’re very tight, ... The irony in some ways is, some of the most significant pollution in that area is coming from the community, from those very developments that are on community systems that have failed, and from a marina. ... We’re all contributing to the problem, ... This isn’t a legacy thing. I’m not sure that folks realize the impacts of a lot of their actions.”

Posted by: Barry Wayne Price | May 01, 2014 06:32

This project was put on the fast lane as soon as our lame duck governor returned from his trip to Korea. He is the one to blame, and those that followed his orders to get it done.

Posted by: Tim McCollum | May 01, 2014 10:04

Let's not hang the governor.  The Sussex County Board of Adjustment does not report to Mr. Markell.  After all there is a process to all of this. Regardless the DE Superior Court ruling will allow the permitting process to proceed.

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