MAXWELL — A concrete pipe maker wants to grow its outdoor storage area by almost 12 acres, but opponents who live nearby say the increase in activity would worsen issues already hindering their lifestyle.

County Materials Corp., 119 N. Main St. (State Road 9) in Maxwell, is seeking extra storage space on 11.65 acres adjacent to the north and west of its current site. The company makes concrete pipes mostly for wastewater and stormwater systems.

While the land eyed for the expansion is currently farm ground, most of it is zoned commercial neighborhood, while a northernmost sliver is zoned residential. Hancock County’s long-term comprehensive plan says it’s in an area that would be ideal for industrial uses.

Earlier this month, the county’s plan commission voted unanimously on a positive recommendation to the county commissioners for County Materials’ request to rezone the site to industrial general. The county’s board of zoning appeals also approved a special exception, three variances from county standards for smaller setbacks and a variance for a reduced buffer yard the company is seeking for its project.

Citing the county’s comprehensive plan, Mike Dale, executive director of the plan commission, supports the rezoning.

“The project is adjacent to an existing industrial use with industrial zoning,” he said at the plan commission meeting. “However, local residents assert that the proposed industrial use and zoning would be harmful to their property values and lifestyle.”

Dale also noted that the site is on the northern edge of an area eyed for industrial uses and the area farther north is zoned for residential uses, which the comprehensive plan aligns with.

“It’s not likely that the county will support further rezoning north unless there is an update or a revision to the comprehensive plan,” he said.

Briane House, a lawyer representing County Materials, said a plant has been in the location at which the company operates for decades before the development of Twin Oaks, a neighborhood to the northwest where residents oppose the proposed expansion. He added the project wouldn’t result in any new curb cuts and wouldn’t necessarily increase traffic or the number of employees. The site employs more than 70 and gets about 25 to 30 trucks a day. House also cited Indiana Department of Transportation traffic studies reporting that traffic has decreased on State Road 9 north of Interstate 70 over the past few years.

“It’s important that a business such as this have additional material capacity to provide when needed,” House said.

Materials the company stores outside are 6 to 8 feet high. County Materials is planning 6-foot mounding and trees on the new storage area’s western boundary along State Road 9. That’s also the plan for part of the site’s northern boundary bordering a farmhouse off the highway. Mounding will continue eastward beyond that, but with no trees.

Quinton Dobbins, who farms the land slated for the storage yard’s expansion as well as the land north of it, supports a lack of trees along that eastern stretch, which would serve as the new southern boundary of that tract he farms. He wrote in a letter to the plan commission and board of zoning appeals that the trees’ roots could be problematic for his farming operations.

Jennifer Ramo, who lives northeast of Dobbins’ field, voiced her opposition at the plan commission meeting. She said she’s awakened every day around 4 a.m. by the sound of trucks’ backup beeps at County Materials.

“The beeping happens all day, every day,” she said. “The materials being dropped, the diesel engines roaring.”

Hancock County’s planning office received about six emails expressing opposition to the project, which cited concerns like impact on property values, increased traffic and noise pollution. One message included a petition reporting to have the signatures of 40 residents who oppose the proposal.

Larry George wrote that county officials need to keep industry away from residential areas.

“Limit businesses to business areas, not residential areas like Twin Oaks,” he wrote.

Maxwell Intermediate School is across State Road 9 from County Materials. Harold Olin, superintendent of Greenfield-Central schools, wrote a letter in support of the company’s proposal. He called the company a good neighbor that provides jobs supporting the county’s tax base that in turn support the school corporation.

Regarding the matters before the board of zoning appeals, Dale was favorable toward County Materials’ request for a special exception but not any of the requests for smaller setbacks and a smaller buffer yard. He said he doesn’t think the company’s situation is unusual or unique enough to prevent it from complying with those standards.

House said without the variances, the storage area would be reduced by about 25%.

County Materials expanded its Maxwell plant in 2017, constructing a large building to house machinery and a paved parking area to accommodate its workforce. The company invested $15 million in the expansion, the Daily Reporter reported at the time.

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