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Shelbyville City Council member Shane Suttor, moving quickly, decisively and perhaps to some surprisingly, brought a quick final answer to the question that Desilets LLC had been asking officials for months: No, the city would not grant the company a zone change for its plant.
Suttor surprised a room packed with Desilets officials, employees and supporters by making a motion for the council to take no action on Desilets’ request to have a zone change from Commercial to Light Industrial to facilitate the expansion of its Stelised subsidiary, a plastic injection molding plant that makes displays and other similar items, at the corner of 10th and Washington streets in downtown Shelbyville.
After Mayor Tom Hardesty twice asked Suttor to restate his motion to ensure everyone understood, council member Mike Zoeller seconded that motion. Hardesty called for a voice vote, and there was no dissent.
“This wasn’t about Desilets’ request for a change as much as it is the next guy,” Suttor said after the meeting. “We had to make sure how these decisions would be handled in the future. Basically, I agreed with zoning and felt he could add to the building what he wanted to add. I think we all pretty much agreed on that.”
What Suttor and the council apparently intend is that the position of the Triple S Planning Commission, which had voted not to recommend the zone change based on its failure to meet the Comprehensive Plan, is affirmed, but what the council’s action actually does mean is open to interpretation.
City Attorney Steve Gregory, who before Suttor’s motion had delineated the council’s options for dealing with the matter – to approve the zone change, to deny the zone or to do nothing for 90 days and allow Triple S’ recommendation to become final – said after the vote that by the council’s voting on a motion to take no action, the 90-day window, which would have expired on May 20, was closed and that matter was finished. Desilets, he said, would have 30 days to appeal the ruling in Shelby County Circuit Court.
Officials of Triple S, however, including Executive Director Ryan Libke and attorney Stuart Ulfert, told The Sentinel-News later Tuesday that they believed the 90-day window in fact would remain open because the council did not vote to close it by denying the request.
That means that the question again could be brought before the council, but that does not seem likely.
Company officials had said they wanted to expand storage space and to remodel but that a zone change would be required to do so. It had been operating under a non-compliance waiver since it had opened in 2006.
Gregory said that, in his interpretation, the company could go ahead with expansion of its storage facility. “You could expand our building without a zone change, but you can’t expand your business,” Gregory said.
Any such plans would have to be submitted to Triple S for approval, but Desilets owner Brian Desilets, who appeared disappointed and upset with the vote, said he would not spend the money to expand or remodel the building.
“I’m not going to invest in that piece of property,” he said. “I’m not going to do it if it’s commercial. It won’t work, and I wouldn’t do it.”
At the council’s previous meeting, on March 21, when the matter was heard for a second time, he had said that, if denied, he would look to sell the property and relocate. He had cited his company’s contributions to the community and the fact that many of his employees live near the plant and walk to work. Stelised also has a facility in Simpsonville.
Shelby County Industrial & Development Foundation CEO Bobby Hudson spoke in angry tones about why this was a bad idea and about the virtues of the company. He talked about how he had marketed the log-vacant Logan Building to Desilets and how much the company’s employees reinvested in the computer, saying that every $100 spent turned over seven times.
“I’ve never had this years in forty-two years of being president of the industrial foundation,” he said. “Never had this happen. We’re turning down growth. I’ve sat in your chair. You’ve got to give a guy like him a chance. I’m very disappointed.”
Then council member Bobby Andriot, a longtime business owner first elected in November, gave an impassioned plea to Desilets to work within the current zoning and variance under which he had been operating for the past seven years and to continue to be a vital part of Shelbyville.
“I would suggest you not take this as a bad thing,” he said. “You’ve done a wonderful job. I admire what you’ve done. I’m new to this job. I wanted to pass you, but I thought about what might happen. What do we do when someone up the street wants an ‘I want’?
“We have laws, and even though we might not always understand them, we have to think about what’s best. We hope you can work with Bobby [Hudson] and find a new place to expand your business.”
Hardesty once again asked the council if it wanted to reconsider, but the question was met with silence, to which almost everyone in the spectators’ seats arose and departed.
Sentinel-News Reporter Todd Martin contributed to this report.