by Sarah Squires
A request to rezone property along McConnon Drive to allow for heavy truck traffic drew criticism from neighbors during a public hearing held Monday night. Commissioners voted 4-1 to recommend approval of the rezone, with a final decision expected from the City Council in the coming weeks.
Rich Mikrut represented Mikrut Properties during the public hearing before the Winona Planning Commission, and said that the rezone from residential to manufacturing would assist in the planned development of a truck to rail transfer facility. The company owns land planned for the business already zoned as manufacturing, and the rezone request for the approximate half-acre site would allow for signage and employee parking.
Assistant City Planner Carlos Espinosa said that even without the rezone, the development would likely still move ahead. The city plans to widen McConnon Drive to accommodate truck access to the area after entry from Pelzer Street was cut off when the overpass was constructed. The rezone, if approved, might allow for some of the industrial activity to take place closer to the adjacent residential property, Espinosa said.
Neighbors adjacent to the site objected to the rezone request, fearing noise and safety issues, as well as declining property values. Several business representatives lauded the development plans as a way to boost the local economy.
Roger Peplinski, neighboring property owner, said the noise, diesel smell, and health hazards are currently horrendous, adding that safety and neighborhood concerns should trump whatever transportation savings would be had with the project. He said he’d watched Pelzer Street reconstructed twice, and that the neighborhood has been damaged enough already. “You have to look at more than savings,” he said. “Our neighborhood has been butchered twice.”
Cenex Harvest State Manager Larry Laber said that the new facility will open up the market for grains and other local products, while Mikrut said the business will increase the area’s industrial base and help the economy and jobs grow.
Planning Commission member Arlene Prosen said that setbacks in the zoning ordinance for buffers between residential and industrial uses would help ensure that nearby residences won’t be further impacted, adding that the current heavy manufacturing zone for most of the development site would allow for much more disruptive things than the planned transport facility. “This has been an M-2 [heavy manufacturing] area for a long time,” she said. “This project will probably happen whether or not this small portion is rezoned.”
The City Council will cast the final vote on the zone change request at a future meeting.