Nearly a dozen citizens are accusing city officials of conducting
public hearings five days before Christmas in effort to “fast track”
approval of a light industrial and corporate office campus near the
Interstate 94/Hwy C interchange.
The city has
failed to follow its rules in accepting an application and requiring
justification of a proposed zoning change from the developer, the
Prestwick Group of Sussex, according to Lynn Holton, one of the
counter they are abiding by traditional practices in scheduling a
hearing during the holiday season and are following the advice of
James Hammes told the Plan Commission at its Wednesday meeting that
before the development can be approved there must be public hearings
on proposals to approve a conditional use permit and change the
zoning and land use for the development site.
DeYoe has scheduled those public hearings in conjunction with the
Dec. 20 Plan Commission meeting “To schedule a public hearing so
close to Christmas is not right,” Holton told commissioners,
pointing out that residents objecting to the development would be
busy that week with holiday plans and family.
“The timing of
this public hearing is not in the best interests of the citizens,”
added Laura Schult, who said residents were promised years ago by
city officials that commercial development would be restricted to
low density office space.
Prestwick has not filed an application or submitted documents
justifying a zoning change, which are required by city code.
how the city could schedule a public hearing before it had received
the zoning code application and supporting documents from Prestwick.
Administrator Tom Hafner later told The Freeman he was advised by
Hammes that a zoning application and supporting documents would not
be required since Prestwick provided information about the zoning
change when the development plans were submitted to the city several
Holton are leaders of a group of residents living near Highway C and
Indian Spring and Behr roads, who have successfully blocked a series
of proposals during the past two decades to commercially develop
about 28 acres of land adjacent to the interstate exchange.
claim they would not object to commercial development that complies
with existing zoning, is compatible with the scenic woodland
residential character of the neighborhood, and the city’s long-range
land use plan.
development does not meet any those criteria, yet the city appears
to be trying to “fast track” approval of the project, according to
some of the neighbors who have attended commission meetings or wrote
letters and emails objecting to the proposal.
Group wants to move its assembly plant and headquarters from Sussex
proposing to develop an approximately 63,000 square-foot assembly
plant, a similar-sized corporate headquarters, and a large barn as
part of an outdoor gathering center that could be used for corporate
and community events.
The company uses
recycled products to manufacture outdoor furnishings and equipment.
DeYoe later told
The Freeman that public hearings are customarily held in conjunction
with commission meetings, which are usually held on the last
Wednesday of the month.
meeting is often scheduled earlier in the month, because of the
Christmas holiday, to assure there will be a quorum of
commissioners, she added.
Group proposals are among a series of public meetings that were
recently added to the Dec. 20 agenda, according to the mayor.