Hearing for MOR/ryde rezoning, expansion project delayed

MOR/ryde International's public hearing to rezone a 22-acre property northeast of Elkhart has been rescheduled for April 11.

Posted on March 14, 2013 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on March 14, 2013 at 4:19 p.m.

GOSHEN — Subdivision residents and parents of kids at Eastwood Elementary School will have to wait at least one more month to find out whether a local manufacturing company will be allowed to expand between the neighborhoods to the south and the school to the north.

A public hearing for MOR/ryde International’s request to rezone 22 acres off of C.R. 15 has been postponed until next month. The Elkhart County Plan Commission agreed Thursday, March 14, to table the hearing to allow MOR/ryde to finalize negotiations with officials at the elementary school. Property owners in the area and parents connected to the school have voiced opposition to the company’s plans to rezone the land from residential and agricultural to allow manufacturing. Opponents have signed petitions and written dozens of letters about MOR/ryde’s plans.

“There is a bigger stack of letters on this case than I’ve ever seen in my career both for and against the request,” said Brian Mabry, the county’s planning and zoning administrator.

MOR/ryde, which makes products for commercial and recreational vehicles, has heard the concerns loud and clear. Anchor Construction engineer Bob Weaver, who is the senior project manager for MOR/ryde’s expansion, pointed out that the company took the time to meet with the school and neighboring property owners to the south two months before applying for the rezoning. And now, to address concerns, MOR/ryde is working with officials at the elementary school to negotiate a possible land exchange instead of rezoning MOR/ryde’s entire 22-acre property.

“Some of the concerns of the neighbors had been the disconnect between the neighborhoods and the school, although we were proposing leaving 100 feet from our fence to C.R. 15, and we were maintaining the trees and the sidewalk there,” Weaver said.

If they can come to a deal before the April 11 hearing, Weaver said MOR/ryde may swap 10 acres of its land to the south of Eastwood Elementary for 10 acres to the west of the school. That way, he said, there would be a connection along C.R. 15 between the elementary school and the subdivisions to the south.

“We think it’s a positive for the school certainly, so that’s why we brought that to you,” Weaver told the plan commission members.

MOR/ryde has three facilities in Elkhart County, including the site of the proposed expansion on Cooper Drive and two plants in Elkhart on Moyer Avenue and Grant Street. The company has 450 employees plus partnerships with hundreds of subcontractors and suppliers.

Though a couple of people booed the plan commission’s decision to table the hearing, postponing the meeting was the “right thing to do,” Tanzie Nielsen said. Nielsen was among close to 50 people who showed up to the plan commission’s meeting on Thursday morning.

“I think it’s OK,” she said. “We have a strong group, and we’re right. We’re going to come back, and we’re going to do what we need to do to stop this land from being rezoned.”

Stephen Hollenberg, who lives south of MOR/ryde’s property, said the extra time will allow him to collect more signatures for petitions against the rezoning. As for MOR/ryde’s negotiations with Eastwood Elementary School, he’s less than impressed.

“It brings the factory right up to the school from the west, and there are many problems with it,” Hollenberg said. “We are rejecting that idea. We don’t think it’s helpful at all. It’s an unacceptable compromise.”

Nielson, who is the head of the school’s parent teacher association, agreed.

“It’s a terrible idea,” she said. “It’s not going to benefit the school in any way. The PTA is against the rezoning of this land.”

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