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City Council Denies Rezoning Request

September 26, 2011

09/27/11 Every seat in the Council Chambers was filled during the Plymouth Common Council meeting on Monday, September 26. A resolution concerning the possible rezoning of property at the comer of Kind Road and 9A Road was up for 2nd and 3rd reading.

In the end, the rezoning was denied, but not before those in favor and/or opposition had said their piece.

The matter first came up during a Plan Commission meeting on September 6. Reichert’s Wrecker Service was seeking to purchase property to erect a building and fenced in area for temporary storage of vehicles for a business expansion. To do so, the zoning would have had to be changed from R-1 (Rural Residential District) to C-3 (Corridor Commercial District).

When a sufficient number of votes for neither approval nor disapproval were reached, it was sent to the Common Council with no recommendation-either for or against. A public hearing was also held at the Plan Commission meeting when the public could address the Commission. Although the Plan Commission had a quorum present at that meeting, there were an insufficient number of votes to approve or reject the request. The final vote was 4 against, 2 in favor, and two abstentions.

Several local residents who own property also attended the Common Council meeting on September 12 when the ordinance was up for 1st reading. They were not given an opportunity to speak at the meeting, but Mayor Mark Senter and City Attorney Nelson did indicate that they could speak during September 26 meeting.

True to his word, Mayor Senter did allow patrons to express their views. Jim Scobey, who lives on 8A Rd. , was the first to speak. He questioned whether allowing the rezoning would amount to “spot zoning”. He said, “We don’t need any more traffic there. Scobey added, “You need to live by that intersection to know what’s going on.”

Plymouth Plan Director Bill Neal reacted to the use of the term “spot zoning”. Neal said, “There is the truck stop and the county garage. I could stand and throw a stone to all of them.”

Speaking for the Reichart’s was attorney Stephen Snyder. Snyder presented pictures of the property in question that is roughly 3.5 acres. He said his clients want immediate , easy access and proximity to the truck stop. The Pilot Truck Stop is on the south side of US 30 almost directly across from the property being discussed. Referring to the truck stop, Snyder said, “The wrecker service is compatible with the current use.” He said the number of vehicles involved would be 10-15 per day.

Neighbors had raised the question of whether anyone would be staying at the property overnight. Snyder said, “They will include a bunkhouse for maybe three people during inclement weather.”

Snyder said there are woods on the property that is of no use at all and it is a noisy area where there would not be development for residential use.

Opponents had pointed out the conditions included in the City’s Comprehensive Plan that would prohibit rezoning for commercial use. However, Snyder argued against that viewpoint saying, “That comprehensive plan has to be looked at as fluid.”

Several questions from Council members included drainage issues, number of overhead doors planned, and the responsibility for road repairs if necessary.

Ellen Hummel, one of  three siblings who own the surrounding land that is used for farming said, “My big concern is simply rezoning. If it starts, where is it going to stop?”

Nancy Meyers, Hummel’s sister, said, “They are already in need of a variance.” The Comprehensive Plan  limits C-3 zoning to having public utilities as opposed to a well and septic system.

John Langfeldt who currently owns the property said , “I respect my neighbor’s opinions.” He went on to say that he rejected an offer to sell to the wrecker company a year ago, but with the new US 31 and 7th Rd. coming through, he changed his mind.

Local resident Wilson Gerrard spoke in favor of the rezoning He said, “In an accident, every minute counts and we count on a wrecker to get them out. One of us might be trapped someday and need a wrecker.”

Brad Lips who lives only one mile away on 9A Rd. said, “The traffic at that intersection is terrible now.” He also questioned how the business would handle fluids leaking from the vehicles. Lips said, “I worry about ground contamination and my drinking water.”

Perhaps most compelling was testimony from Mark Gidley. Gidley lives in the subdivision near the truck stop, sits on the City’s BZA Board, and is a former member of the Marshall County Health Department Board. Gidley stated, as many of those speaking did, that  no one speaks ill of the Reichart’s business. They have similar business in both  Warsaw  and Bourbon.

Gidley said there are 30,000 trucks a month at the truck stop. He said allowing the truck stop was a “mistake” that was made several years ago. Gidley said, “Truck drivers don’t stop at the light. They see a green light and race to get it.” He added, “It is a very dangerous intersection.”

He too expressed his concerns that more commercial development will occur. Gidley said, “Somebody else will bow to the pressure to sell more.” “We have to have a plan for it.” Gidley said,  “Actually, we have a plan that says “don’t do it”.”

Gidley also questioned whether a permit for sewer could be obtained due to the need to fill in a gravel pit area on the property since a septic cannot be in a filled in area. He said, “I wonder if there is going to be enough ground for a septic system to begin with.”

Gidley pointed out that the truck stop has had four septic systems in the last 23 years due to failures.

In the end, Councilman Mark Niedig abstained from the vote. Delp voted in favor and Chuck Ripley, Don Gardner, and Wayne Smith voted against.

Carol Anders Correspondent