ELKHART — Despite compromises that MOR/ryde International is willing to make, the manufacturing company’s new neighbors and parents of children at a nearby school seem hesitant to accept the business’s plans to expand.
Close to 80 people on both sides of the issue came together Tuesday evening, March 19, to learn more about MOR/ryde’s plans to rezone 22 acres off of C.R. 15 between Eastwood Elementary School to the north and a group of subdivisions to the south. The family-owned business wants to expand its nearby Cooper Drive plant, one of its three facilities in the county.
After hearing concerns from area residents, school district officials approached MOR/ryde about a land exchange that would allow the company swap 10 acres of its property along C.R. 15 for 10 acres behind the elementary school. If school officials are able to come to a deal with MOR/ryde, the company has agreed to invest $75,000 to rebuild the school’s soccer field along C.R. 15 with a nature trail and donate another $5,000 to renovate a horse barn on the property for the school’s use.
Bob Weaver of Anchor Construction spoke on behalf of MOR/ryde and explained other steps the company has taken to ease concerns, including using tree buffers, berms and vinyl fencing to shield noise and visibility from neighbors. He also pointed out that there would be no vehicles entering or exiting the property from C.R. 15.
But Jim Meyers, a retired Eastwood Elementary teacher, was not satisfied with the land exchange offer. The 10 acres behind the school, he said, has been used as an outdoor classroom where children go on nature walks, tend to herb gardens and go on archeological digs.
“If the land swap takes place, this would all be lost, and Eastwood children would be put in a lose-lose situation,” he said.
In less than a month, the Elkhart County Plan Commission will hold a public hearing on MOR/ryde’s request. The board will make a recommendation on April 11 to the county commissioners, who will make a final decision on the rezoning in May.