By LOU WILIN
It’s a familiar growth recipe in Findlay: Someone wants to sell his land for a profit; neighboring homeowners are worried about what’s coming; an economic development official offers reassurances, as do city officials, who also try to be fair and impartial.
Findlay City Planning Commission on Thursday voted to recommend zoning that would permit any of a variety of light industrial activities on 37 vacant acres southeast of the intersection of Crystal and Bigelow avenues.
Whether that light industrial zoning gets approved will be up to City Council in the coming weeks.
Some Crystal Avenue residents are worried it could end the peace and beauty of their neighborhood and sink property values.
The Hengsteler family, which owns the 37 acres, asked that it be annexed to Findlay and zoned for light industrial use. Both the annexation and zoning will go before City Council.
Findlay-Hancock County Economic Development would like to see the land developed for industry. Autoliv Nissin Brake Systems America has a 194,400-square-foot industrial warehouse and production plant to the east, at the southwest corner of Bigelow Avenue and Bright Road.
To help serve the plant and other potential industry in the area, Production Drive has been extended west from Bright Road to the Autoliv west property line. Water and sewer lines also have been extended to the area to make it useable by industry, said Tim Mayle, Findlay-Hancock County Economic Development director.
But Crystal Avenue residents fear development might bring a lot of noisy truck traffic, creating hazards and tearing up the street.
Mayle and city officials sought to reassure them that is unlikely. Any industrial user in the area would have a driveway onto the Production Drive extension, which does not extend as far west as Crystal Avenue. All industry-related traffic would be steered east to Bright Road.
That explanation seemed to help, but did not allay all the fears.
“I don’t want to see development because it’s across the street,” said John Thomas of 2730 Crystal Ave.
“Why can’t we go and build on Tall Timbers’ side, where there’s no residential? Why do we have to come on this side of Bright Road and start building everything?” he asked. “You’ve got the opportune places in Tall Timbers area still that’s not developed.”
Thomas was worried about a number of scenarios occurring across the street. One is the possible construction of 400-foot-tall wind turbines. Just months ago, wind turbine builder One Energy and Mayle tried to persuade the Marion Township trustees to rezone the same 37 acres for wind turbines.
Thomas and several of his neighbors spoke out against it. The trustees rejected the requested zoning change. But right after that meeting, Jereme Kent, chief executive officer of One Energy, predicted the wind turbines would be built there anyway, one way or another.
One Energy was not represented at the planning commission meeting Thursday, and Kent did not return phone and email requests for information on the company’s plans.
Wind turbines are not officially part of the plan for the 37 acres, but they apparently have not been ruled out, either.
Thomas, who said he was serving as a spokesman for some neighbors who were working and could not be at the meeting Thursday, expressed anxiety.
“I feel we have a right to know. What’s going to go there?” he asked city officials.
Matt Cordonnier, the Hancock Regional Planning Commission director who provides guidance to the city planning commission sought to be helpful. But the transparency probably was not comforting to the Crystal Avenue residents.
“We don’t have any knowledge. We don’t know who, we don’t know what is going to happen there,” Cordonnier said to Thomas. “All we can say is, anything that’s allowed in I-1 (light industrial zoning) can occur there.”
The list of possibilities includes manufacturing, wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, machining, welding, major automotive repair, semi-truck repair, truck stops, research and development laboratories, mini-storage, trade or industrial schools, public safety facilities, kennels, refuse collection and recycling centers, towing, production and storage of medical or compressed gases, RV sales and services, contractor storage equipment, bulk sales, and storage of “top soils and mulches.”
With separate approval by the planning commission, certain other “conditional uses” also could be allowed, including sales areas or showrooms for products manufactured onsite, adult entertainment establishments, outdoor drive-in movie theaters, and borrow pits.
“We can’t say it’s going to be wind turbines. We can’t say it’s going to be borrow pits because we have no indication of what it could be,” Cordonnier said. “It could be any of those things that would be permitted if they meet the standards.”
Cordonnier called the 37 acres a “tricky site” for city officials.
“On one hand, we have the infrastructure that has been put in place for the light industrial,” he said. “On the other hand, we do have residents that are closer.”
Light industrial zoning makes the most sense, he said.
The city could require that residents be shielded from sights and sounds of industry by shrubs, trees and mounding.
That seemed reasonable to Dan Moyer, of 2650 Crystal Ave.
“I don’t want to be a not-in-my-backyard kind of person. I understand the need for community development,” he said. “But it would be really good as a resident that I’m not staring at light industrial and listening to the noises that’s going on inside those facilities.”
Voting to recommend that City Council zone the 37 acres for light industrial were commission members Brian Thomas, city service director; Jackie Schroeder and Dan DeArment. Absent from the meeting were members Dan Clinger and Mayor Lydia Mihalik.
Wilin: 419-427-8413 Send an E-mail to Lou Wilin