The possibility of a Massman Companies facility being built in Alexandria Township may be close to fruition after all.
Although the Alexandria Township Board tabled discussion of the proposed facility for further information gathering at its regular meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 7, several board members spoke in favor of it.
This comes just one week after the Alexandria Township Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend denying permission to change two residential zones into commercial zones for the facility.
"I think we can all see that partnering with Massman in the township would be a good thing," said supervisor Jerry Wright. "We're all looking to see this area, this community, prosper, and good solid companies are hard to come by."
Vice-chairman Joel Dahlheimer discussed how if Massman did not build on the property, the area would be used for residential development, which could bring somewhere between 60 to 90 houses at most.
"I don't know why anybody would want 60 or 90 houses," Dahlheimer said. "I don't know why anybody would want anything but this. ... I don't see in these 60 to 90 houses any benefit. They're going 24 hours a day, they're going weekends, they've got boats and stuff, and everything you can think of," he said.
Massman, which has a facility in Villard in Pope County, is in the automated packaging industry, with products called automated case packers, which put items into cardboard boxes that are then shipped out.
Massman CEO Jeffrey Hohn said the company wanted to keep the affected area as close to its current state as possible, stating that it would be built in an opening in the trees, not one of which is intended to be cut down, he said.
He also said the company would maintain 50 of the 60 affected acres as open space, including wetlands areas, and that there would be a buffer zone between the facility and surrounding properties.
On Aug. 31 the Alexandria Township Planning Commission held a public meeting at which many people spoke of their opposition to the proposed facility, citing such issues as increased traffic, the impact on residential growth and setting a precedent for other businesses to come into the area.
At Tuesday's meeting, supervisor Jeff Oberg also spoke about the precedent it would set, but said he did not see that as a bad thing.
"I sat through the public session, and there was a comment that was made that once you open this door, you can't close it," Oberg said. "There's some truth to that, but I want also to make the comment that this does set a precedent. … But what's the precedent that this sets? Let's think about the positive end of what precedent this sets."
Oberg said any new business that came to the area could be held to the same standards as Massman, such as being surrounded by trees, being on 60 acres of land and having the buffer zone.
Hohn told the board he expects them to hold Massman accountable if the facility is built.
"Put boundaries on us," he said. "Tell us to do exactly what we said. You can approve it and tell us to put a 300-foot boundary on the property line. Tell us what you want us to do."
Dahlheimer agreed, saying, "If you can walk the talk, I have no problem with this property (going to Massman). It's going to be better than it probably is now."
When the meeting was over, Hohn said he was satisfied with how it went.
"What we heard in the (Aug. 31) planning meeting was the area residents that were very concerned, and we have to also hear the voice of the whole of the township and the desire for economic growth and commercial prosperity, and I think that's what we heard today from the board," he said. "Recognizing this property will develop over the course of the next five years, and having Massman as a commercial partner is probably the least disruptive of all the alternatives relative to the property that's here."
The issue was tabled for up to 60 days, and there will be an announcement of the next time the board will discuss it.