RYAM Invited to Tell Commission About Bioethanol Plans

By Mike Lednovich

Interim City Manager Charlie George has been instructed to invite Rayonier Advanced Materials (RYAM) to a future city commission meeting to provide information about the company’s proposed bioethanol plant.

The instruction from Mayor Bradley Bean followed a request Tuesday by Commissioner Chip Ross.

Ross said the city followed a similar process when the LignoTech plant at RYAM was proposed and eventually approved by the city commission.

“I was asked by constituents to make the following request, as we did with LignoTech four or five years ago, where LignoTech came and made a presentation … if we could invite the owners of the bioethanol plant at some point in the near future to come in and make a presentation,” Ross said. “My opinion is that the more information that the public has about this type of activity that is going to occur in the community, the better off the company is and the better off the city is. I would ask the city manager to invite RYAM to give a presentation in a more formal way than a get-together where they gave information.” Commissioner James Antun agreed saying, “I’d support hearing what RYAM has to offer.”

But Commissioner Darron Ayscue and Vice Mayor David Sturges opposed inviting RYAM on the grounds it was too early in the process of the bioethanol plant proposal.

“I know they (RYAM) had a big meeting and everyone went that was concerned. I know they don’t seem to have a whole lot of answers right now. It’s so early in the process, they’re probably not at a point where they can provide a whole lot … I wouldn’t see why we would need them in the commission chambers when they’re opening their doors.”

Ross disagreed.

“When you say it (the plant) will never come before the city commission, I don’t think that is correct,” Ross said. “I don’t believe the plant meets the requirements of the Comprehensive Plan. It’s a new plant, it’s a new owner, it clearly manufactures a chemical, the chemical is bioethanol,” Ross said.

Ayscue maintained there’s no involvement with the city commission that would necessitate RYAM making a presentation.

Currently City Attorney Tammi Bach is seeking an outside legal opinion on whether the bioethanol plant and storage of bioethanol at RYAM are prohibited by the city’s Comprehensive Plan.

“If it (the opinion) comes back that the Comp Plan won’t allow it, it’s not coming before this board. One way or the other, if it meets the Comp Plan, it will go forward just like any other building, any other house. There’s nothing this commission could do to stop it,” Ayscue said. “The other way, the Comp Plan says you can’t do it, they’re not going to be able to do it. And, I don’t see it coming before the commission that way. I don’t believe this will become a commission issue.”

But Ross again cited the process involving the LignoTech plant — which opened in 2018 — making a presentation to the city commission.

“With the previous LignoTech plant, that did not meet the criteria of the Comprehensive Plan,” Ross said.

Ross stated earlier that the LignoTech presentation before the commission “was effective and we actually changed the Comprehensive Plan based on that presentation.”

Mayor Bean, a RYAM employee, said the commission was split 2-2 on whether to invite RYAM.

“I’m going to recuse myself from anything related to this, but I think an invitation in this case is appropriate, but again we can’t force anyone to do anything,” Bean said.

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Peggy Bulger
Trusted Member
Peggy Bulger(@peggy-bulger1949gmail-com)
21 days ago

Thank you Mayor Bean for allowing this request for a real information-sharing meeting to occur. As a resident of Amelia Island who hopes to live out my life here, I really need concrete information and a chance to ask questions about the proposed bioethanol plant. I am not alone. From the overwhelming consternation expressed by the citizens of Fernandina and Amelia Island, we are asking for a clear and truthful explanation on the pros and cons of this proposal — which will effect all of us. I cannot imagine why commissioners Sturges and Ayscue object to this meeting. They were elected to serve the community and the community clearly wants answers.

Active Member
21 days ago

This is a good decision and it’s what the community has been advocating for months. I hope the format of the meeting is a forum where citizens can ask questions and get the answers needed.

9 days ago

The meetings will happen and everyone should attend to get their questions answered to make better informed decisions

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