BZA sides with neighbors opposed to concrete-recycling center

Plans for a proposed concrete-recycling facility on the northwest side of Columbus have been rejected.

More than 50 people attended Tuesday’s Columbus Board of Zoning Appeals meeting to share their concerns about the facility planned at 2561 N. Indianapolis Road.

Chris Rice, of 4190 N. 200 West, Columbus, appeared before the BZA with his attorney, Jeff Rocker, to seek a conditional use permit for the business. Rice’s plan called for removing a scrap metal and junk yard from nearly seven acres to make room for the recycling facility.

The meeting, which lasted more than three hours, was an opportunity for residents living across the Flat Rock River to speak out about the project.

Rocker tried to alleviate their concerns about noise, dust and possible contaminated materials, but the BZA voted 5-0 to reject Rice’s request after listening to testimony from both sides.

The proposal called for the site to have a crusher on the property, operating during business hours of 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., said Melissa Begley, assistant planning director with the city-county planning department.

Plans also called for stockpiled material to be 15 to 30 feet high with the site averaging 10 trucks a day, Begley said.

Rocker, who said the materials at the site would be used as aggregate, said the crusher that would have been used is equipped with an on-board, dust-suppression system. Rocker also said more than 1,000 feet of dense forest is located to the east of the proposed site, providing a buffer for any dust that would be generated.

The operations would have been limited to Monday through Friday, he said.

“No crushing would happen on Saturday. No crushing would happen on Sunday,” Rocker said.

Rocker was asked by BZA board member Hanna Omar about guarantees that materials aren’t contaminated with chemicals.

Rocker said state agencies such as the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and the Indiana Department of Transportation are responsible for issues of flood control and oversight of contaminated materials, and that concrete is not one of them.

But residents living across the river expressed concerns to the BZA about noise that would be generated from dump trucks, possible flooding and issues with hazardous waste disposal. Melinda Johnson, who lives on Sunset Drive, was among more than a dozen people who addressed the board.

Johnson said she felt the proposed facility would change residents’ way of life.

“We love the people, we love the area,” Johnson said. “Our neighborhood is our own little town.”

Larry Brackney, who has lived on Flatrock Drive for 31 years, said he also objected to the facility being located near his home, citing similar concerns. Rocker, however, said the facilty would not affect water quality.

“I don’t know that you can argue that IDEM doesn’t know what it’s doing,” he said.

After hearing from both sides, BZA board member Dave Fisher said he thought another site should be found.

“I’m all for this business, but I think you’ve got the wrong location,” he said.

Begley also said some criteria necessary to grant a conditional use had not been met. Board member Zack Ellison also said he hopes Rice can find another site for the facility, which he said could have created potential problems for nearby homeowners — involving their welfare and property values.

Brackney said he was happy with the board’s decision.

“Sometimes you win, sometimes you don’t. But tonight, I think, was a win.”

Rocker expressed disappointment in the outcome, but said the project will move forward at another location.

“We don’t know the next step, but this facility’s going to happen somewhere,” Rocker said.

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Matt Kent is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at 812-379-5712 or mkent@therepublic.com