Saturday, September 20, 2014

MOR/ryde expansion goes forward with rezoning tie vote

MOR/ryde International will expand its Cooper Drive plant northeast of Elkhart with construction beginning as early as this year.
Posted on May 20, 2013 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on May 20, 2013 at 4:07 p.m.

GOSHEN — After months of debates about noise issues, property values and proper land use, a manufacturing company northeast of Elkhart will be allowed to expand one of its three plants between an elementary school and a group of residential subdivisions.

MOR/ryde International has been cleared to rezone 12 acres west of C.R. 15 as an extension of its Cooper Drive facility, but opponents of the project did not go down without a fight. Close to 100 people on both sides of the issue showed up Monday, May 20, to a public hearing on the company’s rezoning request in front of the Elkhart County Board of Commissioners.

It came down to a split vote between two of the commissioners, Frank Lucchese who voted against the rezoning project and Mike Yoder who voted in favor of MOR/ryde’s request. Terry Rodino, president of the county commissioners, recused himself from the public hearing because MOR/ryde is a personal business customer of his.

Because of the tie vote, the decision defaulted to the Elkhart County Plan Commission’s recommendation. The plan commission voted 5-3 in April to give MOR/ryde’s request a favorable recommendation to the county commissioners. Lucchese was one of the three plan commission members who voted against rezoning the land.

Lucchese said his top reason for voting against MOR/ryde’s application was the potential negative impact on the nearby properties. Yoder, on the other hand, said MOR/ryde is the type of company that could be easily integrated with its residential surroundings.

Though a handful of MOR/ryde employees spoke at the public hearing to defend the company’s plans to rezone its property, opponents pleaded with the commissioners to turn the business’s request down. Nearby homeowners and parents of children at Eastwood Elementary School pointed out concerns about diminishing land values, property line buffers and noise coming from the plant.

“The quality of life we hold so dear is worth fighting for and worth defending,” said Tanzie Nielsen, head of Eastwood’s Parent Teacher Association.

Plan commission president Jeff Burbrink, who voted in favor of the rezoning last month, told the commissioners Monday that he would have voted the other way if he would have had more details about the land’s history, including past protections for industrial development in the area.

“As a plan commission member, you have to sort through all these things, whether somebody’s lying to you or telling you something that they probably won’t do,” Burbrink said. “Over the last month or so of hearing things, seeing things, sitting through this again, I feel like there was some information that wasn’t given to the plan commission.”

Bob Weaver, senior project manager for MOR/ryde’s expansion, said the company plans to start construction on its 12-acre property as early as this year. MOR/ryde has roughly 450 employees and plans to hire up to 100 more people at its three Elkhart County plants as a result of the expansion.

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