Sylvan board makes decision on Pierce Road rezoning request

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A view from earlier this year of the land in question.

The Pierce Road rezoning request has been denied by the Sylvan Township Board.

If this had been approved, it would have potentially seen a portion of land along Pierce developed into an automobile towing business and impound lot.

By a unanimous vote of the board, the rezoning request to develop the land from a zoning designation of agriculture into one that is industrial was struck down at the Sept. 7 board meeting.

The portion of land is near I-94 and is part of a larger piece that is nearly 33 acres at 480 Pierce Road.

The plan also went before the township’s planning commission at a previous meeting. The planning commission gave a recommendation to the township board to deny it.

In putting reason to the decision, township supervisor Kathleen Kennedy and others on board cited the planning commission’s concerns, which they shared.

These included that the plan was not in compliance with the master plan, which specifically states that any use which requires the need for outdoor storage is not compatible with the Mixed Use designation of this area, and that it is not consistent and compatible with the general land use patterns in the immediate area.

Traffic and environmental impact were other concerns cited by some in the public and at township hall.

The Sylvan Township Master Plan does indicate the area in question on the future land use map as Mixed Use for consideration of various zoning districts, which could include consideration of industrial.

The property is adjacent to residential properties to the north, east and west. There are no other commercial/industrial businesses in that particular area. The north property line borders the railroad tracks.

The rezoning applicant was Bill Kerns of Manchester, who owns a towing company that has an opportunity to expand its work load with local police and act as a towing/impound yard. He wanted to set up shop on Pierce, near I-94.

After the request was denied, Kerns spoke during public comment and expressed his frustration. One complaint he had was that he wished township officials had told him earlier on in the process that the request wasn’t feasible or had a chance. He said it would have saved him a lot of time, effort and money that were invested into this request.

Kerns said they did a lot of homework on this and believed there was interest by some at township hall in this use. As one example, he cited compatibility and said the site is so close to I-94, which makes him wonder how close he has to be in order for it to be any more compatible.

The request has gone through a round of meetings since the start of the year. A decision on it over the past months was delayed to give it further review.

The land is owned by Jim Kalmbach and his family.

Since it was introduced, neighbors of the land and township residents have expressed concerns and opposition to the plan. Many spoke again at the Sept. 7 meeting and at the previous planning commission meeting.

Throughout this process, those opposed have cited the negative impact they believe this will have on the rural charm of that part of the township and think a tow yard is not a good combination with the beautiful mix of surrounding residential and agriculture.

Another concern cited by those in the public was the possibilities that a tow yard could see fluids from the vehicles make their way into nearby Letts Creek, and then maybe into the residential drinking water table. Many also stated other negative outcomes that could come include sight and noise pollution.

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