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Public hearing held on Costco annexation

Neighbors express concerns on future plans

Published: Friday, May 2, 2014 9:35 p.m. CST • Updated: Monday, May 5, 2014 10:14 a.m. CST
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(Jessica Bourque — jbourque@shawmedia.com)
The Costco property proposed for annexation borders four residential homes. A few of the homeowners attended a public hearing Wednesday to voice concerns about the pending annexation and zoning changes.

MORRIS – Lisbon Road resident Julia Leach fears for her home’s resale value now that the city wants to annex and rezone the neighboring property to ready it for Costco’s new meat processing plant.

Her house is one of four residences bordering the northwest corner of the 140-acre property located directly west of Costco’s current warehouse facility near Lisbon Road.

Leach and two other Morris residents brought their concerns and questions to a public hearing Wednesday night held during the Morris Planning Commission meeting.

“I am very opposed to any zoning changes that will continue to try to put my home in the middle of an industrial park,” Leach told the planning commission. “It seems those that want this are going full steam ahead without my permission.”

Costco is looking to annex the entire 140 acres and rezone all of the property from residential to manufacturing. The proposed meat processing facility will only encompass the southern 55-acre portion of the entire plot, and as of now, nothing is planned for the remaining acreage, City Attorney Scott Belt told the commission Wednesday.

The remaining acreage, which there are currently no plans for, is what Leach’s home and her neighbors’ homes are bordering.

“The request for rezoning is not limited to the south half. It’s limited to the entire parcel,” Belt said. “At this point, no one has informed us of any proposed use or prospective buyer for the remaining property.”

However, the zoning change and annexation would allow for future manufacturing facilities to be built on the land, which is what worries Leach and her neighbor William Lavezzi, who also spoke at Wednesday’s hearing.

“Are they going to be buying out our houses?” Lavezzi asked the commission without receiving an answer.

Leach said she bought her home 25 years ago with her now-deceased husband Merle to enjoy a calm, quiet life in the country. But now feels she is being pushed out of her home by the encroaching industrial facilities.

“I have put several thousand dollars into keeping [my home] in marketable condition, and I don’t intend to move unless it’s to a nursing home or a funeral home,” Leach said.

Directly following the public hearing and after some discussion, the planning commission voted to positively recommend the zoning change.

“I truly understand how you neighbors feel, but there’s no promises when you buy something that it will stay the same,” planning commission member JoAnn Gretencord said. “Things have to be rezoned. We have to bring companies in, so that people can survive in our town and so our county can survive.”

Costco’s new processing plant is anticipated to create 250 jobs and bring $319 million in investment to the community, according to Belt and the Costco representative present at the meeting.

Planning commission chairman Robert Gilbertson reassured Leach and Lavezzi that several months of planning and thought goes into the city’s decision to bring in new industrial parks.

“This wasn’t haphazard,and it didn’t happen overnight,” Gilbertson said.

There are still several steps that need to be taken before construction can begin on the meat processing plant, Belt said.

The entire project proposal will have to go through the city’s Parks and Annexation Committee and Water and Sewer Committee before it is passed on to Morris City Council for approval. Belt said the city also will hold another public hearing to go over the entire project proposal.

“Nothing is finalized at this point. This is an ongoing process,” Belt said.

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