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Ford seat supplier clears hurdle

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By Thomas Barr

    SHEPHERDSVILLE - After running into some site issues at a northern Bullitt County location, a company, which will make seats for the Ford Motor Co., has found a new spot to operate.
    And the first hurdle to allowing construction to begin on the 140,000 square foot facility later this month was cleared Thursday night.
    The Bullitt County Joint Planning Commission unanimously gave a favorable recommendation to Salt River Investments for the rezoning of 23.7 acres from IL Light Industrial to IG Heavy Industrial.
    The property would be at the corner of Omega Parkway and Ohm Drive.
    The Shepherdsville City Council will make the final decision.
    If approved as expected, the facility would be providing assembly work on seats to be used in the Louisville Ford plant.
    Magna Seating would initially employ around 190 employees, according to Steve Scott, whose firm is working on the design of the facility. A single shift would eventually move into three shifts, said Scott.
    The plan is to have the facility operational by September 2011.
    “It’s on the fast track,” said Jesse Flynn, president of Salt River Development.
    Before the commission started its discussions on the case, attorney John Wooldridge inquired whether a rezoning should be needed for his client.
    Wooldridge said under the current regulations, the sub-assembly of the seats should not fall under the automotive manufacturing requirements in an IG zone.
    But, at the same time, Wooldridge said his client couldn’t wait and then face the possibility of not getting a building compliance or a building permit due to an interpretation of the regulations.
    “We are not assembling any automobiles,” said Wooldridge, in arguing for the current IL zoning.
    If a permit was not approved, then any appeal would have to be taken to the county’s Board of Adjustments, according to zoning attorney Rob Flaherty.
    But Wooldridge said that would take time on a project that the construction clock is already ticking.
    In talking with other companies in the Cedar Grove Business Park, Wooldridge said one of the concerns has been what happens if someone else purchased the property and had the heavy industrial zoning.
    Commissioner Thomas Givhan said let the property be rezoned and place restrictions to only allow the intended use. If the property is sold and another use is desired, he said they would have to ask for a change and that would provide an opportunity for the board and the public to comment.
    Planning administrator Roanne Hammond looked at the earlier proposal with Flaherty and it was decided to require heavy industrial zoning.
    Flaherty said he couldn’t recommend to the applicant what to do. He said it was the applicant’s decision on whether to continue with the zoning request or to allow the property to remain as light industrial and go through the permit process.
    After discussing the matter with his clients, Wooldridge said they would opt to move forward with the rezoning.
    The company would have the ability to build the initial facility with space for a second building in the future.
    Scott said there were no plans in the works for the expansion. There would be entrances on both Omega Parkway and Omicron Court.
    There would be an estimated 35 trucks making trips in and out of the facility each day and the main entrance on Cedar Grove Road would be at the stoplight on Omega Parkway.
    Flynn, whose firm started the development of the Hackett Farm in 1999, said the goal from the beginning was to have a first-class light industrial facility.
    “I think we’ve done that,” said Flynn.
    At the same time, he said there is reason for caution when placing a heavy industrial zoning tract in the business park.
    “That’s why we’re cautious here tonight,” said Flynn.
    He said the existing businesses must be protected, as well as the investment group’s interests in the undeveloped property.
    All the property in the business park has restrictions and that would also control development on the Magna tract.
    Flynn’s goal is to resolve all the questions and concerns of both the existing businesses and with the neighbors.
    Mark Edison, an attorney representing Patillo Industrial Properties, said his client had no objection to the rezoning request with restrictions proposed on the property.
    He said the proposed building looks to be compatible with the existing businesses.
    David Strange, who lives on Peaceful Way, said he wasn’t opposed to the development and the creation of new jobs.
    When the business park was started, Strange said the property owners worked to ensure a natural 200-foot barrier remained intact. Utility construction has taken some of the trees and the colder weather removes leaves, which allow some residents to plainly see the business park.
    His only concern was any incremental change it might mean for the previously light industrial area. Strange hoped that it would not open up the area for other heavy industrial uses.
    Also, Strange asked if the exterior lighting be more directional instead of shining on nearby residents.
David Gay, also a resident of Peaceful Way, said the new building would not affect his property.
    He planned on talking with the developers about some more fencing since some of the trees have vanished.
Presently, he said he could hear noises from the facilities and he could see the buildings but he didn’t think a new structure would alter the situation any.
    Wooldridge said the facility would be one-story tall with a maximum height of 40 foot. He said the tilt-wall building would be similar to others in the business park.
    His client agreed to allow the seat company to operate in the facility, as well as any other business allowed in the light industrial zone. No other heavy industrial uses would be allowed.
    Also, no manufacturing work could be done outside of the facility.
    The commission unanimously favored the rezoning with the restrictions. Meetings are supposedly set for Dec. 10 and Dec. 13 to get the matter approved. However, as of press time, the Shepherdsville City Council has given no notice of a special meeting on Dec. 10.