Thursday, November 18th, 2010
By William Kincaid
Planning commission against zoning change
Developer wants to build manure digester at the site
  COLDWATER - Mercer County Regional Planning Commission members Wednesday night made a recommendation to deny local developer Steve Klosterman's request to rezone 10 acres of his land from agricultural to industrial.
Klosterman wants to build an anaerobic manure digester on his property near the intersection of U.S. 127 and state route 219.
Commission members were to make a recommendation based on whether Klosterman's application complies with the county's overall plan of development, planning commission non-voting member and attorney Steve Miekle said.
Miekle told the newspaper Klosterman's land is in an area designated as development in the county's plan and that it could be rezoned to residential, commercial or industrial.
During the meeting, discussion often strayed from the members' objective to issues of the proposed manure digester, such as its operation and concerns about noise and odor. Miekle interjected a few times, pointing out that members did not meet to discuss the effective use of the property; they were simply to make a recommendation on a zoning change for the area.
"Is this the best site?" commission member Richard Murray asked.
"It's one of the best sites," said Jason Ziss of Quasar Energy Group of Cleveland, with whom Klosterman plans on partnering to create the plant.
Ziss said the property would be a great fit and that several manure digesters would be needed in the Grand Lake watershed area to combat the phosphorous problem plaguing the lake.
Murray said there are several industrial areas in Mercer County and asked Klosterman why he would not pursue his plans there.
Klosterman replied he already owns the property where he is seeking the zoning change. He also said the location is ideal because it is centralized for the transportation of manure from local farms, in addition to its proximity to two highways.
Planning commission member Carl Huber - who also reminded members that they were there to review zoning only - said Klosterman's property does meet the requirements for industrial.
"It does?" commission member and Mercer County Health Department Sanitarian Chris Miller responded.
Little discussion about whether Klosterman's request fit the county's overall development plan transpired before Huber made a motion to recommend approving Klosterman's application.
The motion was seconded by Kent Phares.
However, six members voted no: Myron Burnett, representing Center and Union townships; Vern Eichler of the Mercer County Engineer's Department; Ron Frahm, representing Blackcreek and Dublin townships; Tom Homan Jr., representing Coldwater; Murray, an at-large member; and Miller.
Huber, who represents Celina, and Phares, who represents Jefferson and Washington townships, voted yes, while Gary Gaerke, who represents Butler and Granville townships, abstained. Gaerke is the zoning inspector of Butler Township, where Klosterman's property is located.
Soon afterward, Homan made a recommendation to deny Klosterman's request that was seconded by Murray.
Burnett, Eichler, Frahm, Homan, Murray and Miller all voted yes. Huber and Phares voted no and Gaerke once again abstained.
After the vote, Klosterman asked the commission if they were voting to decide if his application complies with the county's plan. He then asked the members if they were against the digester or the location of the digester.
There are other developments in the nearby area, Klosterman said, further asking why his request doesn't fit the plan.
"I just don't see this in that location," Homan said.
No other members publicly gave a reason for denying Klosterman's application.
A notice will be published in the newspaper about the date and time of the Butler Township Zoning meeting, according to Gaerke.
The planning commission is required by Ohio Revised Code to make a recommendation. The issue then will still go before the Butler Township Zoning Commission and the Butler Township Trustees, which vote to approve or deny the request.
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