SHARON TWP. — The Board of Zoning Appeals voted 4-1 on Wednesday night to deny a variance request for an 85-foot silo, a critical component of a proposed concrete plant in the township that residents have spoken out against.
The township administration building was filled to capacity with residents standing along the walls during the more than three-hour public meeting.
Orrville Trucking and Grading Co., which sought to build a ready-mix concrete plant on a 60-acre industrial parcel in the 6000 block of Ridge Road, filed the variance requesting to build the towering silo.
“It is not just a variance. It is an astronomical variance and that is the reason I will be voting as I do,” board member Ron Novak said before casting his “no” vote.
Despite a presentation by Orrville’s owner David Renner explaining the workings of the plant and how it could be operated with zero emissions, community members still expressed their concerns.
Austin Kelly told board members he and his wife moved to Sharon Township about 10 years ago from Wadsworth. The couple enjoys the area’s natural beauty and friendly neighbors.
“We are not opposed to change,” Kelly said. “I think change is healthy, but change needs to be healthy, change needs to preserve and maintain an interest in living here and when it doesn’t do that, it doesn’t preserve home values.”
Kelly said he lives 650 feet south of the proposed build site, and was concerned about how the changed sightline would impact community members.
Board of Zoning and Appeals member Todd Lawson asked those speaking to keep public comments focused on the actual silo, rather than the entire plant, as the variance was for the silo.
Sharon Township Architectural Review Board member James Reinbolt said he reviews both new projects and substantial renovations in the township upon request, and was asked to review the matter of the silo.
“We have reviewed the zoning, we have looked at the existing industrial throughout the township, we have determined that there are not any other industrial buildings more than about 30 feet high,” Reinbolt said.
Reinbolt said that while the proposed plant would be in an industrial zone, the location is on the edge of industrial zoning, with nearby residential use, and there are concerns regarding the visibility of the plant if it were built.
“This is one of the very few industrial sites left in the township,” Reinbolt said. “We feel that most prominent part of this complex will be the 85-foot silo, and therefore we recommend denial of this variance.”
David Lewis of Lewis Land Professionals, which completed engineering work on the project and surveyed the land, was given time to respond to the comments made by community members before the board went into deliberation.
Lewis made attempts to address concerns regarding traffic that would result from the plant, but was told by the board he could only address issues of noise, height and the view as traffic was not a part of the agenda.
“As far as the line of sight, I did not do a line of sight from everybody’s house or everybody’s property or future homes,” Lewis said. “We felt that 60 acres was buying a pretty good chunk of land to put this 463-square-foot silo on it.
“We feel that the minimal size of the silo compared to the site is significant.”
Lewis said there would be significant high trees around the property, which would help to serve as a buffer around the property that range between 60 and 90 feet tall.
Renner said his company did its best to present a plan that would maintain the natural beauty of the property, but it will remain an industrial use property regardless of the outcome.
“Prior to this meeting, this was zoned I-1 and when we leave this meeting, it is still going to be zoned I-1,” he said.
Renner previously told The Gazette that there are many misconceptions about the ready-mix concrete industry and there are significant differences between the plants built 50 years ago, and his modern facilities.
Renner declined to comment on the outcome of Wednesday’s vote, or what his future plans are immediately following the board’s decision to deny the variance request.