By Grace Wong
A food composting plant won approval from Cook County commissioners Wednesday despite opposition from nearby residents who fear it will be bad for the environment and their property values.
Some opponents shouted their disapproval to commissioners after they voted 11-2 in committee in favor of the Patriot Acres facility, which is planned on a site along the Des Plaines River outside Des Plaines.
Residents organized to fight the plan, concerned that the operation would bring noise, odor, truck traffic and rodents to the area.
Dozens of people spoke about the plan before commissioners Wednesday, both for and against, but after the committee vote some opponents, among them Nancy Taylor, said they thought they weren't really heard.
"This is typical Chicago politics at work," Taylor said.
The plan passed with a long list of conditions related to things such as hours of operation and noise and environmental protections. Patriot Acres also will be required to operate a hotline for citizen complaints.
Matthew Smarjesse, one of the owners, said he understood residents' concerns and that "we believe we will be a great neighbor." He said the company plans outreach to the community with measures like an open house and the creation of an oversight committee. John Lardner, the other owner, said he hopes to improve communication with the residents, which he admitted was lacking so far.
The County Board took a final, 13-2 vote later Wednesday, with two suburban Republican commissioners, Sean Morrison of Palos Park and Gregg Goslin of Glenview, casting the no votes in both rounds. GOP Commissioner Peter Silvestri of Elmwood Park, whose district includes the site in question, abstained because, he previously said, he had worked for the law firm representing Patriot Acres.
The 25-acre property across Central Road from Oakton Community College will compost landscape waste and food scraps, but no meat, company officials have said. The compost created will be marketed to landscape contractors, farmers, greenhouses and "other users within the horticulture and agriculture industries," according to a company website.
The Des Plaines City Council and Maine Township Board both passed resolutions opposing the project.