GOSHEN — A wood grinding business in Elkhart Township that has been criticized by nearby landowners will not be allowed to relocate less than 2 miles from its home on S.R. 119.
The Elkhart County Commissioners voted 2-1 Monday morning to deny Kevin Martin’s request to move Martin Animal Bedding to a property owned by his father on C.R. 17. The decision went against the Elkhart County Plan Commission’s recommendation for approval after a hearing in February.
Brads-Ko Engineering and Surveying general manager Barry Pharis spoke on behalf of Martin at Monday’s hearing and explained the “extraordinary steps” the business has taken to ease concerns about fugitive dust generated by the wood grinding operation. Pharis said those concerns were taken into consideration when hunting for a new site and designing a building for the business. He also noted that the closest neighbor to the proposed property at 65448 C.R. 17 would be 1,900 feet away whereas the nearest neighbor is less than 100 feet away at the S.R. 119 location.
But these steps did not satisfy nearby landowner Kathy Coffman, who has lived near the C.R. 38-C.R. 17 crossing for 24 years.
“Just to state, we are not against him running his business,” she said. “We just wish it would be at an industrial site.”
Kenlyn Sorg Haack, who sold the land on C.R. 17 to Carl and Amanda Martin, also protested the relocation at Monday’s hearing.
“My first husband and I bought this land, and when he died at 42, I was left to pay for it,” Haack said. “I guess I just feel in my heart my land is going to be gone and ruined, and I guess I just feel like if he wants to do this, that’s fine, but go to an industrial site. This is a business.”
Two of the commissioners — Frank Lucchese and Terry Rodino — agreed that the proposed site was better than Martin’s current location, but they said it is not the perfect fit.
“Even though it’s producing an agricultural product, it’s still a manufacturing business,” Lucchese said.
Commissioner Mike Yoder cast the lone vote against the denial, explaining that Martin’s business is agricultural in nature and should be allowed in an agricultural zone.
Martin’s business sells bedding to more than 300 farmers, according to Pharis. The product is created from wood waste that would typically end up in a landfill, he said.
Jeffrey Stauffer, recycling manager at Jayco Inc., told the commissioners that the company has used Martin’s services for several years. Martin’s business processes more than 5,300 tons of wood waste from the RV manufacturer annually, Stauffer said.
“Jayco is just currently heading toward a zero landfill initiative, and this is extremely important to us,” he added.
The Elkhart County Board of Zoning Appeals denied Martin’s request in October to renew his special use permit for his business at 21918 S.R. 119. He has since filed suit against the board to have the decision reversed.
“If this petition is denied today, one of two things will happen,” Pharis told the commissioners before their vote. “The appeal to the BZA would be approved, and Martin Animal Bedding will stay in place exactly where it is, or the appeal will be denied, and Martin Animal Bedding will go out of business, and until some other solution comes about, the trash will go to the landfill.”
A hearing is scheduled for Martin’s case on March 28.