Goshen News, Goshen, IN

December 20, 2013

Tent variance to get another hearing

By JOHN KLINE john.kline@goshennews.com
Goshen News

---- — GOSHEN — The Goshen Board of Zoning Appeals in a special session Thursday voted unanimously to rehear a variance request by Benteler Automotive which was rejected by the board during its November meeting.

The move follows a claim by representatives of the company that a board member who voted against the request may have a conflict of interest in the matter.

During the board’s November meeting, Benteler submitted a request seeking a developmental variance to allow a temporary 28,649 square foot steel-framed tent with a steel-framed tunnel affixed to the structure at its Benteler Automotive property on the corner of Eisenhower Drive South and Industrial Park Drive in Goshen for a period of two years.

Representatives from Benteler indicated that use of the tent had become necessary due to recent economic issues requiring the company to terminate its lease of a nearby storage building, which it had used to store work-in-progress goods such as steel components for automobiles, as a cost reduction initiative.

Despite receiving a favorable recommendation by city planning staff, several members of the board indicated concerns over the need for such a structure and the precedent such an approval might set, and the request was eventually voted down.

Following the no vote on the proposal, Benteler representatives made the claim that BZA member Kelly Huffman should have abstained from voting on the proposal, as it is her family that owns the building on C.R. 40 Benteler had previously been renting for storage.

In order to avoid possible legal proceedings connected to the claim, members of the city’s legal staff recently made the recommendation that the case should be reheard. The board agreed, and Thursday’s special meeting was scheduled in order to allow the board to vote on the matter.

Before Thursday’s successful vote to rehear the Benteler case, Huffman took a moment to address the board regarding her connection to the conflict of interest claim.

“I am the reason that this needs to be reheard,” Huffman said. “I don’t think I did anything illegal, but I would never want a hint of impropriety, so I am pleased to have it reheard, and I will be recusing myself when it is reheard.”

Board attorney Jim Kolbus also vowed to recuse himself from any further dealings on the matter do to possible conflict of interest concerns connected to his dealings with the Goshen Industrial Park Landowners Association, which was among those who spoke against Benteler’s request during the board’s November meeting.

“On Tuesday of this week, I was contacted by the president of the Goshen Industrial Park Landowners Association,” Kolbus said. “I’m the attorney of record for them. Based on that conversation, I do not feel I can represent the board in this matter today, and in the event it is ever reheard, at the rehearing at that time.”

Traditionally, a request that has been rejected cannot be reheard for six months, though a unanimous vote by the board to rehear the request before that time can overturn that rule. As Thursday’s vote to rehear the case was unanimously approved, the board agreed to rehear the case at its upcoming Jan. 28 meeting.