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What we think: Caution is key in zoning change for recycling plant

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We like the idea of a new recycling facility, but we question whether the best site is being considered.

The Triple S Planning Commission acted with great uncertainty in its borderline OK last week for Midwest Metals to build a recycling center on Kentucky Street near Red Orchard Park.

The concept was approved, 4-3, on Commission Chair Gil Tucker’s tiebreaking vote.

For the record, Commissioners Scott Merchant, Jake Smith and Larry Stewart supported a zone change from light industrial to heavy industrial, and Commissioners Quintin Biagi Jr., Dudley Bottom and Ed Rudolph opposed. And we thank all of them for their care and diligence with this matter.

That means that the commission acted with judiciousness in barely recommending this project to Shelby County Fiscal Court, which must decide whether these 10 acres at 478 Kentucky St. can be rezoned for construction.

And, in this layered process, we suggest that magistrates exercise equal caution with whether or not they want another industrial property being built near the entrance to the county’s natural and wonderful young park.

Let us be clear: We would welcome Midwest Metals to Shelby County, because we support any new business that wants to open here and especially embrace those dedicated to preserving our environment. We believe Midwest Metals would further opportunities for residents who have difficulty helping keep us green.

But we also believe such facilities can and should be located in areas already developed for industry.

Certainly that was the sentiment of several residents who showed up to address Triple S, speaking primarily about the odd couple marriage of nature and heavy industry.

And we believe therein lies the crux of the sort of debate that any burgeoning community must face, a debate that must be engaged on various scales and platforms until it is fully exhausted.

Our principle question about the entire project is this: Why would Midwest Metals want to build on Kentucky Street, a small thoroughfare that empties on one end onto a beautiful rural road (Zaring Mill) and the other into the middle of Shelbyville’s greatest natural resource: historic Main Street.

This area already is a strange mixture of houses, businesses, city and county facilities and the park, but it is hardly the sort of community in which we would expect a company that would be trucking in and out metal materials would want to have its shop.

With so much vacant property available in the county’s five industrial parks – some with easy access to the Shelbyville Bypass and others to Interstate 64 and other prime commercial corridors – we wonder why there would be a need to expand the industrial footprint to an area that perhaps should be going in the other direction.

And if this is simply a sorting, packaging and transfer station, why wouldn’t its owners want access to major arteries?

Wouldn’t the Shelby County Industrial & Development Foundation be willing to help make an arrangement in an existing industrial park economically enticing?

Shouldn’t those who protect our rural heritage – Jim Ellis of MORE did attend – be wary of such a significant zoning change so close to farmland?

And shouldn’t all elected leaders and residents be concerned about protecting their investment in a wonderful new park, in which the Shelby County Parks Board and private entities have invested so much time and so many dollars?
We have a unique opportunity here, let’s be sure we answer all the questions before making the best decision.