HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. -- More than 150 people filled the auditorium Thursday night at North Mecklenburg High School to sound off on a composting plant, which has been the target of complaints by angry neighbors.

Several residents of the Skybrook and Highland Creek neighborhoods have said the compost piles at the plant on Eastfield Road have emitted a strong odor.

Just to step outside we would get nauseated. We couldn't enjoy our home, said Marina Riggio, a Skybrook resident, who said she was not aware of the nearby plant when she purchased her home three years ago.

Wallace Farm -- a processor of yard waste, byproducts of food processing and other materials -- was fined $11,500 in 2008 after state inspectors issued several citations for odor-related violations.

In a settlement with the state last year, Wallace Farm agreed to take additional steps to contain the odor, an effort several neighbors acknowledged Thursday.

It's gotten better since a few months back, said Dennis McCoy, whose Skybrook home is less than a quarter-mile from the plant.

The N.C. Division of Solid Waste held a public hearing Thursday as it reviews a request from Wallace Farm to renew its state permit for another five years.

McCoy, and other neighbors interviewed by NewsChannel 36, said they were concerned the odors would return if the state grants the permit renewal.

Donny Oehler, who spoke in support of the plant, chastised neighbors who had complained about the odors, claiming many homebuyers knew they were moving to a subdivision that is adjacent to a compost facility.

My granddaddy always said if you're going to build next to a hog pen, you're going to smell a hog pen, said Oehler.

The owners of Wallace Farm did not speak at the public hearing.

Approached after the hearing, company officials said they were committed to addressing the neighbors concerns but would not comment further.

The N.C. Division of Solid Waste will continue accepting written comments from the public on the permit renewal through Feb. 8.

A decision on the application is expected later this year.

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