Proposed development protested

HANCOCK COUNTY — Residents are speaking out against a local business owner’s proposal to build a storage facility along State Road 9, citing concerns the development will detract from property values and create an eyesore.

John Smith, owner of Smith Projects, a Maxwell-based construction company, asked members of the Hancock County Area Plan Commission this week to allow him to build a storage facility on a 2.7-acre lot in the 5400 block of State Road 9 just north of his business.

But dozens of property owners from Twin Oaks subdivision, which sits directly to the west of the proposed development, showed up in force to protest the project. Residents said the proposal, which is not permitted under current county standards and therefore requires special approval from commission, would detract from property values and disrupt the neighborhood.

After hearing from Smith and several residents, members of the plan commission decided to delay a decision until next month’s meeting to allow county employees to inspect the site.

The board is expected to make a decision at 6:30 p.m. June 28 at the Hancock County Courthouse Annex, 111 American Legion Place.

Tempers flared at times during the discussion as residents complained about the state of Smith’s current business, which was built in 2015.

Mark Hargett, a Twin Oaks resident, spoke largely on behalf of his father in-law and mother in-law, who also live in the neighborhood and whose property sits directly behind Smith Projects.

Before the business opened, his relatives had an unobstructed view of farmland from their back yard, Hargett said.

But construction crews bulldozed an embankment while building the business, blocking his in-laws’ view and leaving a bank of weeds that aren’t ever mowed, he said.

Though Smith Projects maintains an attractive façade on the side of the building facing State Road 9, neighbors behind the property are left to look at debris and construction equipment, he said.

Smith has developed a negative standing among neighbors and seems ambivalent about their concerns, Hargett said.

“There’s a reputation already,” he said. “That’s the biggest problem.”

Karen Fletcher, also a Twin Oaks homeowner, said when Smith met with neighbors in 2014 prior to moving his business, he assured that the company’s heavy machinery wouldn’t disrupt residents.

But that’s not the case, she said.

“I get woken up quite early in the morning by the banging, clanging, beeping and huge booms of dump trunk beds being dropped,” Fletcher said. “We were completely blindsided by what this industrial operation actually is and the problems it creates.”

Smith refuted residents’ accusations and said he takes their concerns seriously. He’s committed to resolving the issues, he said.

Ron Pritzke, a Greenfield attorney who on Tuesday represented Smith’s case, said the company plans to build a 9-foot fence around the property and intends to maintain a significant buffer between neighboring properties.

Under current plans, the closest home to the storage facility would be more than 200 feet away, Pritzke said.

After hearing from both sides, Jeannine Gray, a member of the plan commission, motioned to delay a decision until next month.

Mike Dale, county planning and building director, said he plans to visit the property to inspect conditions next week.

Coming up

The Hancock County Area Plan Commission is expected to make a decision about a local business owner’s proposal to rezone a 2.7-acre property at 5478 N. State Road 9 to allow for the construction of a storage facility at 6:30 p.m. June 28 at the Hancock County Courthouse Annex, 111 American Legion Place.

The meeting is open to the public.

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Daniel Morgan is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. He can be reached at (317) 477-3228 or dmorgan@greenfieldreporter.com.