By ROGER SCHNEIDER
THE GOSHEN NEWS
Martin’s Animal Bedding can relocate to property along C.R. 17 after the Elkhart County Commissioners approved rezoning the property.
Kevin Martin currently operates the business at 21918 Ind. 19 and plans to move the business to 15 acres owned by Carol and Amanda Martin on the east side of C.R. 17, 2,200 feet south of C.R. 38. Martin requested a zoning change from Agriculture 1 to Detailed Planned Unit Development Agriculture 1.
The change was approved in a 2-1 vote by the commissioners. Frank Lucchese and Mike Yoder voted in favor of the change and Terry Rodino opposed it. The vote was taken after a lengthy public hearing.
Barry Pharis of Brads-Ko Engineering and Survey represented Kevin Martin and laid out the plan for the move. He said a large building will be constructed and that trucks hauling scrap wood to be recycled will unload inside the building. Pharis said trucks hauling away the processed animal bedding will also be loaded inside the building.
The commissioners had previously denied the request over concerns that if that section of C.R. 17 is widened to a four-lane highway in the future, county officials would have to close access to the business and thus have to purchase the business.
Pharis said that problem has been resolved by Martin entering into an easement agreement with a neighboring property owner. That easement would allow access to the property from C.R. 38 if C.R. 17 is widened.
He also championed the move, saying it makes sense. “It’s an agriculture business in an agriculture district,” Pharis said.
But several neighbors and a competitor to the business thought otherwise.
Cathy Kauffman, who lives along C.R. 38, said she felt there were no limits placed on the business and that it also poses a fire hazard.
“If you set this up in an ag zone, anybody can do what they want in an ag zoning,” she said.
Craig Lambright said he wanted to see a site plan and that he was also concerned the business will be within 50 yards of a wetlands. He was also concerned about that section of C.R. 17 being gravel but having up to 100 trucks using it daily.
“It’s going to be a mess,” he said.
Pharis said a site plan has been on file with the county for months and the county’s stormwater board has approved a drainage plan that includes four water retention areas. He also said the Elkhart County Highway Department has issued a list of six traffic control items it wants the business to implement. One item is a passing blister near the entrance and another is the closing of a driveway to a house on the property and creation of a commercial entrance. Additionally, Pharis said county officials will also be paving that section of road next year. He also estimated that the truck usage rate would be 25 a day.
Jim Brotherson, who said he represented Soil Solutions, a competitor in the wood recycling business, said Soil Solutions was required to locate in an industrial area and more restrictions were placed on the business. He suggested the same apply to Martin’s business.
“It’s no more an ag business than a large-scale meat-packing plant or a large-scale fertilizer industry, Brotherson said.
Brotherson said most of the wood used by the Martin operation comes from the recreational vehicle industry.
Before voting for the rezoning, Lucchese said this issue created more calls and contacts from the public in his six years as a commissioner than any other issue. In making his decision to vote for it, Lucchese said, “I have to look at the bigger picture, which is to keep wood out of our landfill.”
Yoder said there are not enough wood-grinding businesses in the county right now to accommodate the need to recycle scrap wood destined for the landfill.
He also said the business will be properly zoned. “This is an ag business,” Yoder said.
In opposing the rezoning, Rodino said he is concerned the business will be a fire hazard because it will not have dust collectors inside the large building.
“That just scares the daylights out of me,” he said.
In other action, the commissioners:
• Approved a grant renewal application for Victim’s Assistance for $114,779.
• Approved a rezoning from Manufacturing-1 planned unit development to Manufacturing-1 for a property owned by William Fenech on the west side of Ind. 13, 100 feet north of C.R. 2.
• Approved a request from Jeffrey and Allison Hilty for a zoning change from Agriculture-1 to Manufacturing-2 with a conditional industrial unit development Manufacturing-2 for property on the east side of Ind. 19, 1,015 feet south of C.R. 36.
• Approved a request from GGT Real Estate for a zone map change from Manufacturing-1 to a detailed planned unit development Manufacturing-1 on the east side of Ind. 15, 1,300 feet south of the Indiana Toll Road.