Plan commission sends favorable recommendation to council on Toyota annexation

Photo provided The Toyota Material Handling entrance is shown.

The Columbus Plan Commission on Wednesday passed two motions giving a unanimously favorable recommendation to the city council to annex and rezone property where a leading local employer plans to build a 260,000-square-foot manufacturing facility.

Toyota Material Handling is asking the city to to annex 70.53 acres and rezone 65 acres directly north of its current facility. The property is on the east side of Interstate 65 and County Road 225W, between Deaver Road and County Road 300S.

The rezoning request calls for changing the 65 acres from a classification of Agricultural: Preferred to Industrial: General.

Toyota’s proposal includes widening the company’s frontage along County Road 225W to 24 feet and adding curbs and gutters on both sides of the road. The manufacturer is also proposing several infrastructure improvements, including the realignment of County Road 225 W north of its intersection with Deaver Road.

Plan commission staff gave the annexation and rezoning a favorable recommendation, according to the staff report.

In terms of the annexation, the planning staff’s favorable recommendation was based upon criteria relating to contiguity and availability of municipal services. State law requires than an area being annexed by the city must be at least 12.5% contiguous with current city limits. The proposed property is 53% contiguous.

The availability of municipal services refers to the idea “that all City services can be provided to this property in the same manner they are provided to other similar properties with 1) no capital costs and (2) only those typical and customary infrastructure maintenance costs that are proportional with the expected development.”

During a 2017 city strategic growth study it listed constraints on development of the property due to sewer availability, however city utilities has now indicated that sewer service can be provided, according to the planning staff report.

Key issues for rezoning the property included:

  • To what extent is buffering needed to protect adjacent residences from industrial development at this location?
  • To what extent are infrastructure improvements required to accommodate industrial use?

The facility would be focused on producing electric products and energy solutions to meet immediate needs, as well as to handle a 10-year growth of the material handling market, the application states.

Toyota Material Handling Sr. Vice-President Tony Miller said that when the company bought a 15 acre parcel in the area in 2017, they didn’t have a clear picture about what they were going to do with it, but did so in case they would need it for future expansion.

“The opportunity has now come for us to continue to expand our business we’ve grown in the Walesboro area for the last 35 years,” Miller told the commission. “We are out of space and we are out of capacity.”

The city’s comprehensive plan identifies the property as being in the Woodside/Walesboro area for industrial use. The Woodside/Walesboro area, bounded by County Road 350S, County Road 400W, County Road 700S and State Road 11, is also considered an economic growth area.

Miller noted the company is not planning to have any truck traffic on County Road 225W, just car traffic. In addition, while a berm between the property and the neighbors adjacent isn’t required, Miller said they plan to create one.

“We intend to be a better neighbor than that and we are planning on an 8-foot tall berm with trees,” Miller said. “It will blend naturally with the berms that are already on the existing Toyota property and it just makes sense to carry that theme over to the other side of Deaver, and frankly, more importantly create a natural buffer between us and our neighbors.”

Millers said the goal is to start production in June of 2026 with 85 new employees.

Mark Brennan, who lives on a property along the south fence line of the applicant’s property said he had met with Toyota Material Handling in January to discuss possible effects of the construction on traffic patterns, the potential of an environmental impact study being completed, and concerns about property devaluation among other issues.

He also said he’d like for berms on the south and west of the property to be a minimum of 20 feet. Brennan sent an email detailing these concerns after the meeting but hasn’t heard anything back, he said.

“At this point, we want to make clear that we’re not taking a position of opposition to the rezoning request, nor are we in favor. We simply cannot take a position at all until the applicant gives us the written answers to our concerns.”

In the application Toyota Material Handling Sr. Vice-President Tony Miller notes that while the comprehensive plan depicts Deaver Road as a potential boundary, the “plan also seeks to create a positive business climate characterized by flexibility,” the application reads.

The annexing and rezoning now heads to the city council and is set for the March 19 meeting.