In an unexpected twist, Berlin Township voters will not be able to put the brakes on a proposed concrete batching facility by showing up at the polls on May 8 to vote on a referendum.
“As of Wednesday afternoon last week, Mr. (Marty) Savko, under one of his various business entities, acquired the property” next to the original parcel, said Mike Shade, attorney for Savko Brothers Properties X LLC. “And guess what? It’s already zoned Planned Industrial.”
On Oct. 9, 2017, the Berlin Township Board of Trustees, after the approval from the township’s zoning commission, approved a measure involving the rezoning of 24 acres of land along U.S. Route 36/state Route 37 from Farm Residential to Planned Industrial. The request was made by Savko Brothers Properties, which proposes developing Savko Commerce Park, an industrial park that includes the construction of a concrete batching facility.
Shade said the residents are going to need to make a decision because “no matter what, it’s coming.”
Shade added it would be better for the community if the facility is built on the original property because it sets back from the highway, the concrete batching facility would be located further from residential homes, and trucks would enter and exit from U.S. 36/state Route 37.
Shade said Savko Brothers consented to all the resident’s concessions in the planning of the facility on the original property.
“My client is prepared to live up to every one of those agreements that were made,” he said. “The reality is that we understood all their concerns, and we tried to take all of them in. Every hoop was jumped through. There was feedback. We gave up a lot, but that was never good enough.”
Shade added, “I’ve never had a client that was willing to do more to work with his neighbors.”
However, if the voters choose to vote in favor of the referendum to overturn the trustees’ rezoning of the property, the facility will be built on the new property which is closer to residential properties, close to the highway, and trucks would enter and exit on Old State Road.
“Now the traffic will be down the road (Old State Road) instead of being away from that intersection until the baggage road was completed,” he said. “These aren’t meant as threats. My client had to put out a lot of money, a lot of money to do this.”
Shade said this is an opportunity for growth in the township, and a chance to lessen the tax load on the residents through putting the burden on commercial businesses. He said the original property isn’t doing anything in bringing in taxes for the community.
“What are you going to do with that land? I’m not saying this is a Brownfield, but it has the characteristics of being a Brownfield,” he said. “When you have a junkyard for over 60 years, there are going to be issues there. Do you think people are going to put housing back there on the FR-1 portion?”
These are the aspects that we think the public needs to know. They need to start asking some tough questions to the people that are circulating these petitions.”
Shade said voters could overturn the trustees’ Oct. 9 decision to rezone 24 acres of land through the referendum on the May 8 ballot, or vote against it and move forward with the current zoning and proposed plan.
“One of the things that has concerned me throughout the entire process — the filing of the petition, now the referendum, and going to the courts — has been the lack of forthrightness on the part of people that circulated the petitions,” he said. “At no time have they ever told the public, not in their petition, not in any of the materials that they presented, they’ve never told the public that there were over 10 hours of hearings.”
Shade pointed out that the opposition to the rezoning measure never told the public that the Delaware County Regional Planning Commission independently reviewed and “recommended approval unanimously.” Nor did it the opposition bring forth that the citizen panel — zoning commission — after “seven-and-a-half hours of hearings, vote unanimously to move this project forward.”
Shade added the opposition did not disclose at any time when they circulated their petition or anywhere in the process that the trustees, after receiving the recommendation from the zoning commission, and following a two-and-a-half-hour hearing, approve the rezoning measure by a “unanimous vote.”
Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.