Allen County Commissioners Therese M. Brown and Nelson Peters decided to take bold action despite the absence of the third commissioner, Linda Bloom, at Friday’s meeting. They voted to deny a zoning change that would have allowed a 776,000-square-foot truck and rail transfer facility to be built near residential neighborhoods in Lafayette Township.
The commissioners overruled the Allen County Plan Commission, which had OK’d the application by Crown Enterprises, of Warren, Michigan, in November. It was a virtual replay of a 2001 scenario, when a proposal by Crown for a much smaller logistics warehouse was approved by the plan commission and turned down by the county commissioners.
The facility, dubbed a "truck hub" by opponents, was designed to supply the General Motors plant, which is just south of the proposed site. Neighbors argued that the facility would be noisy and unsightly and would increase traffic in the farm-and-residential area.
Opponents marshaled lots of arguments and deluged the commissioners with information. Brown and Peters, in turn, appear to have studied the issue carefully.
The most compelling argument against the truck/train facility was that the county’s master plan limited development "only to those areas immediately west and south of the (GM) plant." Another line of the plan could have been read as sanctioning the development. But neighbors such as Grant and Stephanie Schultz, who were leaders of the fight, said they bought their homes with the understanding the neighborhood was protected from industrial development.
Brown and Peters were right to look at the total picture rather than split hairs over ambiguities in the master plan. "Frankly," Peters told The Journal Gazette’s Rosa Salter Rodriguez, "the homeowners made a very compelling case."
If Crown is able to find a home for its proposed operation in the area south of GM already zoned for industrial growth, the story could have a happy ending for everyone. But in any case, the commissioners were right to listen to the residents, follow the plan and turn down the rezoning bid.