By Tim Cox
Qualitec, 441 Grand Lake Road, can continue its expansion without city permits, but at the company's risk of having to possibly halt or undo the project.
Work on pouring the concrete foundation to expand the building is largely finished even though Qualitec officials never sought a building permit. The company also might need a zoning variance if a proposed land deal with next door neighbor Verizon does not come to fruition.
The issue was discussed Thursday evening by Celina Planning Commission members, who expressed displeasure with the way the company has handled the process. To make matters worse, no one from the company attended the meeting to help sort things out.
Jay Korte, the planning commission secretary and employee of the city engineering department, called Qualitec's failure to field a representative at the meeting "very disturbing."
Commission members faced a number of options. They could have voted to have city administration immediately halt construction at the Qualitec facility, which reportedly is being doubled in size. They also considered recommending approval of the potential variance to the city zoning appeals board and talked about granting Qualitec preliminary approval of its site plan contingent on the company acquiring the necessary land from Verizon. In the end, though, they simply tabled the issue until they can meet face-to-face with someone from Qualitec.
Commission member Eldon Wetter said it has long been the board's practice not to even discuss proposals from parties who are not in attendance at the meetings.
Wetter argued that contingent approval could put city officials in a bad spot down the road.
"How are they going to straighten it out after it's built?" Wetter asked.
In a worst-case scenario, Qualitec could be forced to remove what construction has been completed. City officials expressed a desire not to hinder the company's expansion plans but also reiterated their frustration with company officials' failure to follow city regulations.
The company reportedly has new equipment scheduled to arrive in a few weeks just before doubling its workforce.
"They were definitely wrong for not coming to the city for permitting," said commission member Jeff Hazel, who is the city's safety-service director. Hazel added that Qualitec is using local contractors who also should have been aware of permitting issues.
Qualitec, a metal finishing company, purchased the former Ringle Plating Co. in 2003. The owner is the Kriegel Corporation of Van Wert.
In other business, commission members rejected a request by Roy Orick to split 3.3169 acres of an 11.7595-acre tract he owns between his carryout and Perfect Paws pet grooming on state Route 29 on the west edge of town.
Orick wanted to carve a new lot to sell to his son, Ty Orick. Commission members rejected the plan because an access drive to the plot only had 50 feet of frontage; zoning regulations require 100 feet for a business district.
Commission member Tom Hone said the issue is about protecting city regulations, especially in "gateway" areas into the community. Mayor Sharon LaRue openly worried about setting a precedent.
Hazel was the only one of four commission members present to vote against the rejection.
Orick still can plead his case to the zoning board and can appeal the planning commission's denial to Celina City Council.