Planners support more semi parking

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HANCOCK COUNTY – Planning authorities support more proposed semitractor-trailer storage on the county’s west side where industrial development continues to spread.

The Hancock County Area Plan Commission late last month approved a favorable recommendation to the Hancock County Board of Commissioners to rezone four neighboring properties totaling about 27 acres in the 2600, 2700 and 2800 blocks of North CR 700W in Buck Creek Township. If the board of commissioners approve, the properties’ zoning designations would change from industrial business park to industrial general, through which semitractor-trailer storage is permitted after a special exception from the Hancock County Board of Zoning Appeals.

Only two of the four properties have concept plans, as the other two have yet to draw interested parties. Plans for the two sites under contract outline a total of nearly 300 spaces, but that could change further into the development process, said Pat McCarty of Greenfield-based Orange Barrel Engineers.

“These are concepts of maximizing the usable space without exceeding the lot coverage that’s allowed under the zoning,” McCarty told plan commission members.

Briane House, a partner with Pritzke & Davis, a Greenfield-based law firm, represents McCarty in the rezone request.

“This sort of parking is a critically important ancillary use to development we already have in the county,” House said, adding the location is ideal due to the abundance of warehouses in the area.

House added the bulk of what would be parked on the lots would be semitrailers and that they’d generally be empty. Some cabs could be parked there, he continued, but the purpose would be for drivers to park whatever they have and leave.

“This is not a truck stop,” House said. “This is not someplace where truckers stay in their trucks overnight.”

He also said there’d be no intention for storing refrigerated trailers and that the lots would be gated for access and fenced. They’d also be buffered and landscaped to the county’s standards.

The two properties with contracts would each have a single owner operating a facility for their own trucks, House said – JVS Transport and Varinder Sivia.

Plan commission members approved the favorable recommendation 5-2, with Bill Bolander, Tyler Edon, Michael Long, Renee Oldham and Bill Spalding voting in favor and Wendell Hester and Byron Holden voting against.

The decision came despite plan commission executive director Mike Dale’s unfavorable position. He noted the county’s comprehensive plan calls for industrial business park zoning in the area, which suggests light industrial activities, but ones wholly enclosed within a building.

“And in staff’s view, the outside storage of semitractor-trailers is inconsistent with the intent behind the business park land use designation in the comprehensive plan,” Dale said.

Preston Batta, who lives near the area eyed for the semitractor-trailer storage, spoke in opposition to the proposal at the plan commission meeting.

“I recall a song that had the words in it, ‘They tore up paradise and put up a parking lot,’” Batta said. “This seems to be what this is becoming – a parking lot.”

Marian Hensley, a Democratic nominee for the Buck Creek Township Advisory Board in this fall’s general election, pointed to the Hunters Chase neighborhood to the northwest of the proposed semitractor-trailer storage areas.

“I think that these people that are already there need to be considered in the plans for Hancock County and Buck Creek,” Hensley said. “I don’t think this is thoughtful development.”

George Langston, a Greenfield resident who worked as a truck driver for nearly a decade, spoke in support of the proposal. He agreed semitractor-trailer parking will be needed because of the multiple new warehouses in the western part of the county, and added officials will likely soon have to contemplate opportunities for truck drivers to rest as well.

The county board of commissioners has yet to determine when it will consider the rezone. The board’s agendas are posted on the county’s website, hancockcoingov.org.

The commissioners are expected to approve a rezone requested for semitractor-trailer storage on 5 acres just to the south of the one the plan commission recently considered. 5 Rivers Properties wants to buy the property from McCarty to create about 25 parking spaces and turn the house on the land into office space. The county board of zoning appeals would need to approve a special exception as well.

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