By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
Beck’s Hybrids wants to build a seed distribution facility on land in Deercreek Township but current zoning does not allow it.
In May 2012, the family-owned seed company, based in central Indiana, purchased 280 acres of farmland east of the Farm Science Review grounds between U.S. Route 40 and I-70, north of London. The company uses the land for practical farm research for Ohio soil types and to host field events for farmers.
Recently, Beck’s representatives contacted the Madison County Building and Zoning Office and the Deercreek Township trustees with questions about putting a seed distribution facility on the site. Robert J. Turvy Jr., a Deercreek Township trustee, said Beck’s wanted to break ground on the facility soon after this year’s Farm Science Review, which wrapped up on Sept. 19.
The Beck’s land is zoned for agriculture use only. The addition of a staffed building for the purpose of distributing product off-site for sale elsewhere would change the use of the land, said Dave Hughes, county building and zoning administrator. A change in use would require a change in zoning to commercial or industrial, depending on the exact nature of the facility. Beck’s has not yet submitted a formal proposal for the facility.
The county’s comprehensive land use plan dictates zoning in the unincorporated areas of the county. Changes to the plan can only be considered and made during the plan review process, which takes place every five to seven years. The last update was approved in 2012 and backdated to 2010.
Turvy met with Hughes, the Madison County commissioners and county prosecutor Stephen J. Pronai on Sept. 16 to talk about the zoning issue. He invited Beck’s to send a representative, but they did not.
Turvy said the trustees are not against the idea of the seed distribution facility but want to honor the county’s comprehensive land use plan and the process for making changes to it. County commissioners David Dhume and Paul Gross agreed. Commissioner Mark Forrest was not present.
Hughes noted that because the latest update to the plan was backdated to 2010, the county could technically convene a task force in 2014 for the next regular plan review, then approve an update in 2015.
Pronai said the Deercreek Township trustees could take the review process as another opportunity to decide what kind of development they want in the Lafayette/Route 40 corridor.
Turvy said he personally would prefer to see a small portion of Beck’s site rezoned for the distribution facility, leaving the rest as agriculture because it sits in a flood plain along Deer Creek.
Gross indicated that he opposes setting different zoning for small “islands” of land.
The county and township officials at the Sept. 16 meeting agreed that convening the land use review task force next year is possible and a good idea.
Regarding Beck’s zoning issue, Gross and Dhume said the county isn’t trying to put up a bureaucratic wall but rather maintain the integrity of the county’s land use planning process.