The 7-2 vote -- Dan Herbster, R-District F, and Rafael Morton, D-District D were opposed -- took place after two hours of discussion on the matter, including a 90-minute public hearing in which more than two dozen residents spoke in opposition to the project.
Only two people spoke in favor of the petition, including a representative of the Chicago South & South Bend Railroad, which currently owns the property for which the project is slated.
Herbster, whose district encompasses the site, attempted at one point to table the vote for one month to allow more time for discussion, but the motion failed 6-3.
Introduced by the Indiana Illinois Development Co., a subsidiary of the railroad, in December, the petition requested a zoning change to allow for the operation of a metal shredder in the 54400 block of Smilax Road, near IN/TEK and IN/KOTE and about two miles east of New Carlisle.
Addressing the council Tuesday, Stephen Studer, the attorney for contingent property buyer Randall Schlipp of NRJ Real Estate, described the issue as one of land use “above all else.”
In that regard, he noted that the site is located in an industrial growth area, and that the project conforms to both the comprehensive and land use plans developed by the county.
At the same time, however, he acknowledged the legitimate environmental and quality-of-life concerns related to such a project, saying, “We are not naive to think that it is purely a land use issue.”
To that end, he noted that Schlipp had agreed to include in the final site plan commitments related to drainage and the disposal of hazardous waste recommended by the Health Department.
He also addressed the issue of sound, noting that the noise level from the shredder would be about 80 decibels on site and about 22 decibels at the nearest home, or “about the sound a ticking clock makes.”
In response to a question by council member Mike Hamann, D-District A, Studer said that he did not believe operation of the shredder required an air permit from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, “but we’re going to meet with them this week ... and if they saw we need a permit, we will certainly get one.”
Herbster then asked about vibration from the shredder, to which Studer replied, “You will feel those freight trains a lot more than you will feel this operation,” referring to the 130 to 140 trains per day that travel the railroad corridor adjacent to the site.
But opponents of the shredder disputed many of Studer’s claims, and even accused him and Schlipp of attempting to deceive residents about the size and impact of the project.
Among the concerns raised were whether any materials would be burned on-site, whether runoff from the site would contaminate soil and groundwater, and whether hazardous materials such as asbestos, present in brake lines, would be removed from the vehicles prior to being shredded.
“When things go wrong, who cleans up the mess? And how long does it take? And what are the consequences of that mess,” New Carlisle resident Tom Pietrzak asked.
Karen Myers addressed the council by shaking a water bottle full of pennies, which she said equaled about 80 decibels in terms of noise level.
“You can’t convince me that this whole operation ... will make less noise than 10 pennies in a water can,” she said, “you cannot convince me of that.”
In response, Studer said that no materials would be burned on site, and that, in fact, the shredder would not even produce a flame, merely heat from the friction of metal rubbing against metal.
In terms of soil and groundwater contamination, he noted that Environmental Health Director Mark Nelson said neither would be an issue as long as Schlipp abides by the commitments included in the final site plan.
Schlipp did concede that he was unsure about the asbestos issue, but promised to look into it.
Speaking afterward, Troy Picton, who lives near the site on Edison Road, expressed disappointment with the council’s decision.
“I’m thoroughly disappointed, as expected,” he said. “I think what it comes down to is money ... that’s what American is all about, it’s all about money. I think it’s totally unfair and I’m thoroughly disappointed with our elected officials right now.”
Schlipp, on the other hand, expressed relief.
“We’re definitely glad it went that way,” he said of the vote, “and we’re definitely going to do everything we said we were going to do, and then some.”
The petition now moves to the Board of Commissioners for final approval on Feb. 15.Staff writer Erin Blasko: firstname.lastname@example.org 574-235-6187