ELKHART — A 12-acre grassy piece of land sandwiched between a school and a cluster of neighborhoods will be getting a lot of attention Monday, May 20, when the fate of a manufacturing company’s request to expand in the area will be decided.
MOR/ryde International, a company that designs products for commercial and recreational vehicles, wants to expand its Cooper Drive plant between Eastwood Elementary School to the north and a residential area to the south. The Elkhart County Board of Commissioners will decide Monday morning whether to rezone MOR/ryde’s land off of C.R. 15 from residential and agricultural to manufacturing.
The Elkhart County Plan Commission recommended approval of the rezoning in April, but the decision was not unanimous. Five of the plan commission members voted in favor of the rezoning while three others, including county commissioner Frank Lucchese, opposed the project.
Parents of children at the elementary school and nearby homeowners have been critical of the company’s plans, citing concerns about noise, potential impacts on property values and the business’s proximity to a school and homes.
Representatives from MOR/ryde met with neighboring landowners earlier this year before filing the request to rezone the land. Anchor Construction engineer Bob Weaver, senior project manager for MOR/ryde’s expansion, has been busy preparing for the upcoming public hearing with the county commissioners.
“We’ve been continuing to look at the project, confirming the facts that we’ve presented,” Weaver said. “We’re feeling confident that staff and the plan commission have recommended approval. We believe we have dealt with residents’ and neighbors’ concerns to eliminate or alleviate the issues that they brought forward.”
Tanzie Nielsen, head of Eastwood’s Parent Teacher Association, has encouraged parents and neighbors to call the commissioners and write letters expressing their opposition to MOR/ryde’s project.
“I think it’s the epitome of a grassroots effort to educate people about what’s going on,” Nielsen said. “Until this issue came into my life, I didn’t really understand zoning, rezoning and land use.”
Nielsen noted that she is not against the company’s growth, just its location. She would ideally like the land next to the school to be green space or low-density residential housing with large lots.
“Anything other than that is illogical and unacceptable,” she said.
On the other hand, Weaver believes MOR/ryde’s growth represents a step in the right direction for Elkhart County.
“This is also about creating as many as 60 jobs on the site and 40 more jobs related to this, so we’re talking 100 possible jobs here,” he said.
Some homeowners near MOR/ryde’s property believe that the commissioners’ decision will set a precedent for future rezoning projects in the county.
“If industry is able to buy inexpensive residential land and succeed in rezoning it for manufacturing and move between an elementary school and its neighborhood, then no homeowner is secure,” said Kathy Hollenberg, who lives on Brittany Trail next to the MOR/ryde’s land.
Deb VanDyke, who also has a home on Brittany Trail, wholeheartedly agreed.
“What happens Monday could affect everyone in the county,” she said.
The county commissioners will meet at 9 a.m. Monday at the Elkhart County Administration Building, 117 N. Second St. in Goshen.
View MOR/ryde International in a larger map