Starbucks gets Douglas County variance |

Starbucks gets Douglas County variance

Starbucks Coffee Co. cleared its first hurdle Tuesday to building a roasting plant in Douglas County as planning commissioners unanimously approved a height variance the company wants to build storage and bean roasting silos.

After nearly three hours of testimony from county planners, Starbucks officials and residents, the commission agreed to let the company build an 80-foot-tall silo. County rules otherwise limit the height to 45 feet.

The height variance allows the Seattle-based coffee giant to build an indoor silo where coffee beans are stored, roasted and packaged for distribution. Similar plants are located in York, Pa., and Kent, Wash.

“I was opposed to this initially, but what clinched it for me was that building this plant would eliminate 80 other buildings” in the Carson Valley Business Park, said planning commissioner Michael Hayes.

Starbucks has eyed the Carson Valley Business Park to build a 300,000-square-foot roasting plant which would consume 50 acres. The company also looks to buy 50 more acres in the business park to serve as a buffer zone. The business park’s developer, Gary Cook, said the facility would occupy 80 parcels, which are zoned industrial and are ready to be built upon.

Starbucks officials say they need about 30 days to decide whether to build the proposed facility in Carson Valley. The communities of Stead and Fernley are also vying for the plant, which would employ up to 200 workers.

Starbucks officials said they were pleased with the variance decision.

“We were looking to how we would be received in this community and it was better than what we expected,” said Rick Arthur, vice president of administration for Starbucks.

The announcement that Starbucks is looking to the business park to build the roasting and processing plant has alarmed some nearby residents in the Johnson Lane area. About a dozen people spoke during Tuesday’s public hearing, with five people opposing the project. Opponents said the plant would cause odor and pollution problems, and would be visually unappealing.

“If you have a 45-foot height limit there, there is a reason for the limit,” said Robert Good of Wildhorse subdivision. “Why do these people have the right to get a variance with something that is going to smell up the area?”

Carson Valley resident James Washor is concerned with air quality, but is not necessarily opposed to the plant. He wants to make sure it won’t pollute the Valley.

“I just want to make certain that we know for a fact that we won’t live in a giant coffee roaster called Carson Valley,” Washor said.

Arthur said the plant would include the latest technology to minimize its impact, and said the proposed plant would not emit smoke. Arthur added that testimony and a letter by Gardnerville resident Gary Pyle, in which Pyle stated the plant would emit 100 tons of volatile organic compounds a year, was wrong. He said the figures are overstated by “10 times.” Starbucks has not requested an environmental permit from the Nevada Environmental Protection Agency, but will do so as plans to build the facility proceed. Starbucks must submit its report for review to the NEPA, which can either accept or reject the report. To build the plant, it must meet the minimum standards set out by the NEPA, Arthur said. Residents concerned over the smell of coffee, such as Linda Good of Johnson Lane, said the Carson Valley should always remain agricultural and industry isn’t a good fit.

“We don’t have anything polluting our air at this time, and don’t want anything polluting our air in the future,” Good said.

Addressing odor concerns, Arthur and plant manager Thomas Pasinger said the proposed facility would not roast coffee daily and the impact would be minimal.

Pasinger said that at the Kent plant, he has smelled coffee outside once since January. Arthur added odors are hard to discern, but the plant would use technology that mitigates odor.

“Odors are extremely subjective,” Arthur said. “It is everyone’s individual opinion.”

Planning Commissioner Ame Hellman said Starbucks has “gone beyond the call of duty” to work with communities, nonprofit organizations, and environmentalists. After doing her homework, Hellman said she welcomes the Starbucks plant to the Carson Valley because it’s the kind of clean industry the county wants.

“I feel the variance is justified and it is justified for environmental reasons,” Hellman said. “I want to welcome you to the community, and if you choose to come, I will support the project.”

Planning Commissioner Mark Neuffer echoed Hellman’s sentiment.

“I think Starbucks is a neighbor that comes along once in a great while,” he said. “Just being on their short list should be a privilege. I personally would be happy to have Starbucks in our neighborhood.”

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