Group seeks reversal of Allen Harim decision

Court brief claims county officials failed to garner information
Allen Harim Foods has plans to convert this former Vlasic pickle plant into a poultry processing plant. BY RON MACARTHUR
April 30, 2014

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.