Berlin Township residents opposed to the development of a concrete production facility were disappointed with the outcome of the trustees’ meeting on Monday.
Trustees approved the rezoning of 24 acres of land from Farm Residential to Planned Industrial Development, granting a request by Savko Brothers Properties X LLC, which plans to develop land located along U.S. 36 and State Route 37. The proposed Savko Commerce Park includes plans for construction of a concrete batching facility.
Township residents in opposition to the rezoning measure left early when the measure was passed.
“Tonight is a lost cause,” Shawn Wright said. “We’re all still learning the process of local government and the power each entity holds.”
Wright said residents are left with only one option: a referendum.
After trustees approved the measure, Savko Brothers owner Marty Savko said nothing can happen until the company takes possession of the land in 30 days. His first concern is to clean up the old salvage yard as he promised to do during a previous meeting with the township and its residents.
“It’s not about the plant going up quickly, but about doing it properly,” he said. “We don’t have to turn it on in the morning. If it’s not up by the end of 2018 or the spring of 2019, that’s all right.”
Savko told trustees that his plant will be outfitted with the latest technology.
“The technology that we saw and the set up we saw in Washington D.C., is far more superior than anything we saw around here,” he said. “We don’t want the system to be releasing out the top of the silos. We want pipes to bring all the releases down to dust collectors that are enclosed.”
Savko said he is currently working to install the new system at his other plants.
During the meeting, trustees asked that language in the proposal be changed to include that Savko Brothers is to seek all EPA permits as well as all other required permits by federal, state, and local governments.
During zoning commission meetings, there were reports of residents in opposition to the rezoning packing the township hall. Many of the same residents attended the trustees hearing, packing the hall once again.
“Property owners have the right to develop their land as they see fit,” said Trustee Steve Flaherty.
Asked to weigh in on the rezoning by the trustees, Mark Fowler from the Delaware County Prosecutor’s Office civil division, said the first thing to look at is if the proposed use met the township’s zoning resolution.
“If it does, it’s a no brainier,” he said. “What we’ve seen in other townships is an applicant can sue the township for not complying.”
Fowler was asked if the threat of litigation existed with a referendum by one of the residents.
“I’ve never seen a successful lawsuit after a referendum,” Fowler said.
“Who would they even sue?” said Graeme Quinn, the resident that many pointed to as the leader of the opposition. “The residents?”
Quinn said his property borders the property of the proposed industrial park. He explained his problem isn’t living next to a cement plant, but the traffic it creates at the intersection of Lackey Old State Road and U.S. 36/SR37.
“Someone is going to get into an accident with an 80,000 pound truck,” he said. “Someone is going to get killed.”
The suggested pattern by the Ohio Department of Transportation is for traffic to make a right turn from Lackey Old State Road onto U.S. 36/SR 37 and then a U-turn to make a left turn onto U.S. 36/SR37.
Quinn said he would suggest the corner be renamed “Savko’s Corner.”
Trustee Ron Bullard said the traffic pattern was a compromise at best and it wasn’t really a good one, but it was what ODOT is suggesting at this point.
“I don’t think it is something desirable to the applicant,” he said. “Certainly not desirable to us. I don’t think it’s desirable to ODOT. It’s just not possible with what’s out there right now.”
Bullard said there were only three things in the purview of the board that could lead to rejecting the rezoning.
“Safety, morale, and health,” he said. “The state legislature put those three words in. They didn’t give us the definition of them. They didn’t give us the definition of how to use them.”
When questioned about where the line was drawn on safety, “Sticking a stick of dynamite next to a childcare center, we could say that is probably not a safe thing to do,” Bullard said. “Our hands are tied.”
“That’s the struggles we deal with,” Flaherty said. “The byproduct of development is increased traffic. We can only control our township roads; we can’t control the state routes.”
Quinn was asked if the residents would file a referendum to over turn the trustees approval. He said the group would need to meet before he could answer the question.
D. Anthony Botkin may be reached at 740-413-0902 or on Twitter @dabotkin.