Route 66 News

Not in my Valle Vista

I recently received e-mails from a group, Concerned Citizens of Valle Vista & Surrounding Areas, that is opposing a proposed biodiesel plant near the subdivision of Valle Vista, about 15 miles northeast of Kingman, Ariz.

The group said the plant would “potentially degrade a nice stretch of historic Route 66,” and advocated relocating it “more appropriately” to an industrial park in Kingman.

But the more I checked into the group’s stance, the more it rubbed me the wrong way:

— First, it seemed disingenuous for Valle Vista to talk about an “appropriate” location for a biofuels plant when the subdivision boasts a very prominent 18-hole golf course. Golf courses are a notorious hog of an indisputably valuable resource in the desert — water. Meanwhile, the proposed Sun West Biofuels will reportedly require no water for its operations. So the “appropriate” stance seems, at the very least, specious.

— Second, the group’s contention that the plant will “degrade” a stretch of Route 66 is a huge assumption. Historic Route 66 has always been a road of commerce throughout its history and its 2,200 miles. In addition to splendid scenery, the ever-diverse Mother Road is dotted with car factories, oil refineries, cattle feed lots, junkyards and other exploits of American free enterprise might be considered as unsightly, but are job-producers. Also, the proposed Sun West plant reportedly will not be a smokestack-type operation and will produce no harmful byproducts or emissions. So the biofuels plant will “degrade” 66 … compared to what?

— Third and finally, it’s been apparent that a recent growth in NIMBY has been seen regarding alternative-energy projects. For example, one group opposes a solar project in the sun-rich Mojave Desert just off Route 66 on environmental grounds — while essentially ignoring the apparent environmental damage by the continued use of fossil fuels.

But Valle Vista residents aren’t making that claim. The opposition is mostly two-tiered — the plant is a safety concern, and the plant is going to hurt property values.

The safety concerns aren’t entirely without merit. Kingman was the infamous site of a horrendous rail-yard explosion that killed 12 people, and a few Valle Vistans might be afraid a tanker car loaded with biodiesel might blow up, too. But diesel isn’t nearly as volatile as the propane that sparked the 1973 tragedy. And, honestly, if Valle Vistans were truly concerned about safety, don’t you think they would have thought twice about putting a community next to an extremely busy Burlington-Santa Fe rail line that carries all sorts of hazardous materials?

That leads me to believe that most of the opposition is from those who claim property values will drop because of a biodiesel plant. I’m sure some homeowners in Valle Vista are feeling on the defensive these days — Arizona is one of the states most affected by the bursting of the real-estate bubble. But, again, with open land and a highway and a busy rail line nearby, didn’t it occur to them that industry might one day be calling?

Let’s look at the big picture. Oil is a finite resource that will run out or become scarce — perhaps in this century. Gasoline and diesel prices have settled down after surging to $4 a gallon last summer, but there’s every reason to believe prices will jump again once the recession ends. These factors are why it’s important to expand and diversify energy sources. The fact such diversification would make America less dependent on oil-producing countries that are sympathetic to terrorists would be a bonus.

The residents of Valle Vista may gain allies in its opposition to the biofuels plant. But Route 66 News will not be one of them.


10 thoughts on “Not in my Valle Vista

  1. Sal Paradise

    Sanguine points about the money hookers trying to claim Route 66 is a vestal virgin and must be preserved. I truly believe some of the worst ideas spring from plain folks under the guise of ‘protecting property values’. Just look what that thinking did to California vis a vis Prop 13 back in 1978. Basically made it illegal to raise taxes. Now look at the great state, once hailed as an economic powerhouse on its own merits. Now, it ranks below advanced states like Alabama, West Virginia and Mississippi.
    Route 66 has been pimped every which way but loose since day one, now the folks in Arizona have come up with a new way.
    With their anyplace ‘but our backyard’ they’ve shown us all that being a Route 66 fan has some unusual bedfellows.

  2. Roger Howard

    Mr. Ron

    I find your arrogance exceeds your ignorance by about 4 to one on the Valle Vista question.

    First of all, you didn’t do your homework. The same people (family)that are proposing this BioDiesel plant down the road from us were the original owners of the land and developers of Valle Vista and the “very prominant 18 hole golf course” you refer too.

    What I/we gather from the local chapter of the Route 66 Historical preservation group their objective is to maintain the “Mother Road” in it’s existing format for many generations to come, and they don’t foresee this kind if industry in our area of Route 66. As an organization they seem to be standing with us in our opposition.

    As for employment, these people will have to be highly trained in order to work in that plant and it doesn’t matter if the plant is in our backyard or down the road in the Airport Industrial Park where the land is already zoned for that type of industry, the power is there, BNSF has extensive rail spurs in existance and they are within close proximity to I-40 for transport.

    The argument against the Solar plant is their need for 3,500 acre feet of water per annum.

    As for our safety concerns, the plant will be using massive amounts of Sodim Methylate aka (Sodium Methoxide) a very unstable product if carelessly handled e.g. it flashes (explodes) when exposed to moisture or mixed incorrectly along with Methanol also pretty high on the flammability scale. The location they are proposing is not within any local Fire District, the closest chemical fire fighting unit is at the Airport roughly 10 miles away and you can’t fight this type of fire with water.

    We are in the direct path of exposure from the SW trade winds that blow 65% to 70% of the time here.

    Do you want to be down wind from this plant on that one chance in, pick a number, from 10 to 10,000 that they have a catastrophic explosion or…………. do yourself a favor and look up those two components I mentioned above. One blew up in Chicago yesterday.

    Yes, we are sorta NIMBY when there are very obvious choices for locating that operation.

  3. Roger Howard

    I’m back

    After reviewing my comments from yesterday I thought I should expand and clarify a few items.

    First of all this Valle Vista is no small glitch on the landscape it is short platted for 4,400 homesites so we are not talking about just the current residences, this is a big footprint of population if and when it ever fills out. Again, this plant is being proposed by the very people that developed VV and now want to put this plant within a half to three quarters of its most southern corner

    The trade winds are more from the south/south east and would blow directly over that plant and over VV, bringing whatever odors and or particulate that escapes from the plant directly over most of this subdivision.

    I’m on the “VV Concerned Citizens Committee” and have attended several meeting, and have not heard anyone say they were against BioDiesel. The concern is the hazards of this type of manufacturing this close to a residential area.

    There have been 13 devastating explosions and fires throughout the country over the past several years at plants producing Biodiesel, with one a couple of days ago in Chicago. That one was caused by an employee mixing volatile materials in the wrong proportion according to the news report. When you study the rest of the fires you find human error was the factor in the majority of the fires.

    As to our not being smart eough to realize we may have industrial plants springing up around us if we moved here that is irrelevant as all the property in question for this plant and surrounding area is and always has been zoned Agricultural/Residential. They are trying to get the plant site re-zoned to Heavy Industrial which is the designation they need to maufacture anything using hazardous, flammable and explosive materials. That little tidbit is written in the “County General Plan”.

    Addressing our awareness of the BNSF rail line running through here being a threat, that was a consideration I’m sure with many of us, but that rail line has been there since about 1900 or so and goes back to it being a known factor. It appears that all of us accepted this even when you factor in between 90 and 100 trains pass by here in any 24 hour period 7 days a week this is not a bone of contention to us.

    Arizona like most of the country has had a severe drop in real estate values, does that mean we should not do what we can to protect what value we may still have?

    The developers have available several locations to chose from to place this plant that are already zoned, have the power, fire protection and rail spurs in place or available 10 or 12 miles away and it is off Route 66 at the Kingman Airport.

    There is alot more to this than what I’ve expressed here and it needs to be discussed and decide upon with facts not innuendo.

  4. Robert Stuchl

    For those that think safety is not a concern please Google “biodiesel plant explosions”. There wa just an explosion two days ago in the Chicago, IL. area. The plant will be located within 1500 ft of Valle Vista structures and fire concerns in Arizona should be top priority. The prevailing winds blow into Valle Vista on a regular basis from Route 66.

  5. withheld

    In regards to your “Not In my Valle Vista” article you seem to be woefully misinformed or deliberately dense. In your “first” argument you trot out a non sequitur about the Valle Vista Golf Course and the related use of water. So you understand, I don’t play golf, and I don’t give a tinker’s damn about golf. I ride motorcycles on route 66, explore the beauties of the Music and Peacock Mountains in my UTV, and dabble in competitive shooting. NO GOLF! Be that as it may, the Valle Vista community and golf course were developed by one local family – the developer of the biodiesel plant is a scion of that family. Our local water company (Truxton Canyon Water) is also a family venture. If you want to talk about water waste, last summer I reported a water leak in the pipe located in the vacant lot next to my property. A company representative did respond, and I was told that the leak was not serious enough to warrant repair. I guess they must have a 5 or 10 gallon rule – if it’s only leaking 5 or 10 gallons an hour, it’s not worth fixing. I checked the leak again 20 minutes’ ago, and the water is still flowing after 13 months. I am told by other residents that the system is full of such leaks. I hope there is more concern for leaks in the family’s new biodiesel plant.

    While we are dealing with the non sequitur of water waste, an integral part of this plant is forecast to be algae pools located on the developer’s property across Route 66 from the plant (Ummmm nothing like the smell of fresh algae in the morning!) Perhaps you can imagine the water loss from algae pools.

    Your second contention would seem to apply the logic that since we already have trash, pollution and junk, we should bring in some more. Brilliant! We really need to turn 66 into a desert version of some midwest rust belt. That will really bring the rich folks flocking to build new homes and pump millions into the economy as we in Valle Vista already do.

    Your third contention seems to be that there is some nefarious anti-green cabal located in Valle Vista. I don’t think so. Many of us attended the recent open house conducted by the folks who want to build the Red Lake solar plant. They are experienced in the field and really seem to have their act together. While I would prefer it be located another 5 or 10 miles from the beautiful mountains, I can definitely live with it as proposed, as can many of my neighbors. We can also willingly support a biodiesel plant in properly zoned area designed to handle such heavy industry.

    Regarding your dismissal of our safety concerns, and your argument about the railroad and Valle Vista’s proximity thereto. Again, that same family developed Valle Vista precisely where it is. We bought the homes and lots. The railroad has been hauling dangerous cargo since shortly after the birth of this country. They have made catastrophic mistakes, but they have learned much about safe cargo handling in the last 200 years. By their own admission, the biodiesel plant developers have no experience in the building or operation of a biodiesel operation. That’s none, zip, nada, diddly squat. After dealing with the water company, I’ll trust the railroad.

    Finally, regarding your questioning of our failure to foresee that industry might come calling. The stupid man builds or buys his house next to an airport or shooting range and then complains about the noise. No sympathy from me. I know that I checked the local zoning before laying my money down, and that zoning was residential and agricultural. The heavy industry zoning was down at the industrial park. Now you can fault me for not knowing that the County powerbrokers would try to shaft the local homeowners, but you can’t say I was too stupid to ask about the zoning..

    The real big picture is zoning. Not energy or a biodiesel plant. The developer owns 116 acres (inclusive of the plant site) along route 66. It is my understanding that 74 of those acres are up for sale. Since there is not much demand right now for agricultural/residential land it might be very lucrative to get the zoning changed. Once the change is made, we can have industrial garbage all the way from the airport to Antares Road. That’ll bring the tourists flocking.

    Since you seem to be so concerned with green subjects try this little bit of logic. The prospective employees of the plant will presumably live in Kingman. If the plant were built in the industrial park, instead of just shy of milepost 70 they could save about 16 miles per day per employee in commute, carbon footprint, fossil fuel use, etc.

    I am not supplying any identifying information, because I am suspicious of what will happen to my water service if I do!

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