Whisky Advocate

Some residents plan to fight new Diageo distillery in Kentucky

June 19th, 2014

Author - Fred MinnickDespite the Shelby County planning commission unanimously approving the $115 million Diageo Distillery, nearby residents plan to continue protesting if several local issues are not addressed.

Diageo officials explained their company’s distillery plans, including state-of-the-art fire protection measures, significant economic benefits, and environmental considerations that include the planting of 2,450 native trees and a bio retention basin. But at the June 17 public hearing, several citizens offered cynicism toward Diageo’s claims and raised several issues over odor, traffic, noise pollution, water usage, black fungus, and sewage.

At the center of the community’s issue is the Guist Creek Lake, a 317-acre reservoir five miles east of Shelbyville. Diageo plans to use 180,000 gallons a day from the lake and says feasibility studies indicated this will not impact local water supplies.

But Bill Roberts, a 25-year resident of the Guist Creek Lake area, says past droughts have impacted its usage. “I can remember twice the lake was so low Shelby County had to keep the farmers from pumping water for their crops,” Roberts said. “How can [the county] allow another company to take 180,000 gallons a day from that lake and use it?”

The water commission determined the distillery’s lake usage would take out less than two inches of level, said Guy. L. Smith, executive vice president for the company, who was the lead Diageo presenter at the hearing. “If there was a drought, we’d be a part of the community that would be sensitive to that and would not just carry on,” Smith said.

There’s also the issue of the lake residents tapping into the new infrastructure.

“For 25 years they’ve been telling us we’re going to get sewers and fire hydrants,” said Linda Casey Stevenson, a resident who lives two blocks from the proposed distillery entrance on Benson Pike. “Diageo is coming in and they’re building all this. But we will not be allowed to hook into that. Obviously, they have declared Shelby County is open and for sale.”

Linda Casey Stevenson is concerned about drought.

Resident Linda Casey Stevenson is concerned about drought.

Stevenson says she’ll continue to voice her opinions.

But there’s little that can be done. Smith says Diageo plans to be breaking ground in three months and wants to support the community as “good neighbors.” Diageo is now pursuing approvals for building permits, but it’s met all county and state requirements to begin the project, Smith says.

In addition to the area’s tree plantings, the company says it went above and beyond the county’s newly adopted zoning requirements for a distillery, which required at least 25 percent of the property to be dedicated to agricultural use or preserved as a conservation area.

Diageo said it will have a zero waste to landfill and that at least 100 acres will serve as a natural barrier to the operation. Diageo also explained buildings will fit in the natural landscape and will contain fire as well as alcohol leaks.

Company officials said in the case of a fire or massive barrel leaks, the warehouse’s concrete dikes would contain the fire or liquid. The water retention basin would act as a secondary containment area, they said.

“The entire area of disturbance in the distillery area and warehouses is drained to the water bio retention basin,” said Kevin Young, a site planner working with Diageo. “All storm water goes through a filtration system before it exits the site. This is not required by [the zoning], but something we’re doing above [requirements].”

These extra efforts have not gone unnoticed. Outside of the Guist Creek Lake residents, Shelby County Tourism and residents expressed support for the new distillery.

“I appreciate the dilemma of [residents] and their concerns. However, this distillery has gone above and beyond what most companies try to do within our regulations and to support this community,” said Shelby County resident Katy Shabdue. “I’m very much in favor of this.”

Only one resident claimed to have an issue with the whiskey fungus. The young man presented the commission with a picture of black mold. The commission did not address him and later voted in favor of the distillery.

Construction is expected to be completed within three years, Diageo says. The company still has not named the distillery.

11 Responses to “Some residents plan to fight new Diageo distillery in Kentucky”

  1. Dennis says:

    Any word on what they are going to do about selling and tasting alcohol in the “moist” Shelby County?

    It looks like it’s not too far from the city of Shelbyville, so they could extend the city limits to include the distillery, like they did with Brannon Crossing in Jessamine county. Otherwise, the county would have to pass a special exemption.

    Either way, I doubt it would have gotten this far if certain promises haven’t already been made…

  2. Danny Maguire says:

    Don’t know about that. Noticed one lady expressed concern about the impact of the distillery in time of drought; if you haven’t got water you can’t make whiskey. Another was concerned about the black fungus, you’ll find it anywhere alcohol is made in quantity. It feeds of the booze in the atmosphere and is harmless to people.

    • Fred Minnick says:

      Danny,
      The gentleman protesting the black fungus cited the so-called whiskey fungus litigation, which is a class-action Diageo’s involved with. I was unable to verify his name, as he left after his questions. But the man said the fungus can be prevented and feared it would damage his property.

      • Danny Maguire says:

        Fred, How can it be prevented? It feeds on the alcohol that breathes from the cask as the whisky matures. To prevent the cask breathing you would have to shrink wrap them, then you get no maturation. To prevent it any other way would require a constant spray of an anti-fungal chemical on all surfaces; prohibitively expensive by anybodies standards. I would venture to suggest that the complainant does what every resident in every other spirit producing region in the world does, accept it as a harmless by product of the industry.

  3. Fred Minnick says:

    Oh, Danny, I’m not saying it can be prevented. I’m saying that’s what this man claimed.Since I was unable to speak to him, I was unable to question him.

  4. Danny Maguire says:

    Fair enough; but surely he, at least, thinks he has some basis for his claim? Is there anything published anywhere that would give some credence to him? I’m not aware of anything but since it’s never bothered me I’ve not done any research.

  5. The whiskey fungus has been written about extensively since it was discovered about 100 years ago. The actions in Louisville were prompted by a report produced by a local government agency. The only thing any distillery can do to prevent it from affecting its neighbors is to not have any neighbors, i.e., no one living within the range of the vapors, which isn’t very far.

  6. Carl says:

    if the rickhouses were built like modern buildings instead of barns, a ventilation system could filter out the alcohol vapor. That would cost money, of course, but seems workable.

    • Danny Maguire says:

      You would still need the air circulating to allow the casks to breath, so a barn type of building is probably still the best.

  7. Richard Turner says:

    Richnimrod said;
    I wouldn’t be too surprised to find the ‘black mold’ complainer is hoping to get paid in some fashion for his “inconvenience”. As long as anybody in our litigious society can complain loudly and publicly, there’s a chance he or she will eventually be paid to stop complaining. Just MHO.

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