FOR THE TRIBUNE
A company plans to take a vacant bowling alley property on Indianapolis Road and reuse it as a site to produce environmentally friendly biochar.
Nex-Gen Fuels, based in Seymour, received a favorable recommendation from the Columbus Plan Commission to rezone property at 3906 N. Indianapolis Road, Columbus, former site of Bulldog Lanes, to industrial.
The company wants to locate manufacturing equipment there to produce a material known as biochar from wood.
A biochar production facility converts wood chips into charcoal, company representative Richard L. Phillips said. Phillips lists the company’s address as 701 Coventry Drive in Seymour.
Company officials described the operation as having a pile of woodchips on the site that would be loaded into processing equipment that heats the chips at a high temperature and converts it to biochar.
The equipment, similar to a large pressure cooker, does not release any smoke or particulate matter into the air — the only byproduct is steam, company officials said.
The biochar is then loaded into a truck to be sold as green-style soil additive. The biochar material enhances the ability of soil to retain nutrients and water, reduces soil acidity and improves root development, according to the company.
There would be about six employees on site, with one truck arriving and departing about every two hours.
Company officials are considering whether to keep the bowling alley building now on the site but said it is likely the building will be demolished and eventually replaced with a smaller, office-type structure.
The vacant bowling alley was described as deteriorating and the parking lot as crumbling, a plan commission report on the property said.
The property is surrounded by industrial-style buildings and vacant lots that are for sale, and property to the west is the 33-lot Tudor Subdivision.
Because the wood chips and equipment, while covered, would be stored outside, the city will require a buffer and a fence along the property lines leading to the street, Paula Drive and Indianapolis Road.
When plan commission member Frank Jerome, who is also a city council member, asked what happens if the nearby subdivision residents say the biochar process doesn’t smell so good, planning officials said that would be a zoning violation.
If an unpleasant odor can be smelled at the zoning boundary for the property, it would be a violation, said Jeff Bergman, planning director for Columbus and Bartholomew County.
Jerome eventually voted against the recommendation, but plan commission members gave a favorable rating to the proposal.
However, Nex-Gen will be required to limit its outdoor storage of wood chips to below its buffer screen, and fencing would be required, commission members said.
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Nex-Gen Fuels, Seymour, is asking that a little more than 2-acre property at 3906 N. Indianapolis Road be rezoned industrial so the company may produce biochar from woodchips there.
The former Bulldog Lanes bowling alley may be demolished and eventually be replaced with a small office building in its place.
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The Columbus will consider rezoning the property at 3906 N. Indianapolis Road at 6 p.m. Oct. 6 at City Hall council chambers.