By Lauren Zeugner
SYRACUSE — The Syracuse Town Council took another step towards Polywood LLC expanding its manufacturing facilities in the Syracuse Industrial Park during its regular monthly meeting Tuesday night, Sept. 15.
During a Zoom meeting, the council approved rezoning 900 W. Brooklyn St. from residential to industrial II following the recommendation of the area plan commission.
Attorney Steve Snyder explained a survey by Kimple and Associates has already been completed. Snyder explained the boundaries and what the preliminary site plan show regarding parking on the west, south and east sides of the building, A ditch on the west side of the property will run underground. There will be a detention area on the north side and the flood plane was also highlighted.
Snyder proposed the council change the zoning since a tax increment finance district and tax abatement have already been approved for the project. He noted the area, which has been an industrial park for 50 years, has transformed into a cutting edge industrial park with Polywood as the sole company.
In addition to a new office and manufacturing facility, traffic flow will be improved into the Polywood campus so goods can be moved into and out of the facility.
Some of the concerns area residents have expressed include traffic, noise and the glare from the lights in the parking lot as well as employees working three shifts.
Snyder promised Polywood will work to minimize any negative aspects the facility expansion may bring. He also noted Polywood has not slowed down despite the global pandemic. Neighbors had questions regarding buffers. Snyder explained a buffer zone is a grassy strip 20 feet wide between the facility and the right of way.
Polywood is going to attempt to expand the buffer zone. A dense row of arborvitae will be planted on the west side of Maple Street to provide a noise and visual buffer. There will be three lights on the east side of the building. Pete Graber of DJ Construction explained these will be a new down style so the light beam goes directly down rather than out. It is also possible to get lights that are motion activated. These would power down to about 30 percent and only go fully on if someone left the building, entering the parking lot or someone drove by.
Snyder said another concern expressed by neighbors were about property values and property taxes. He noted property values on Maple Street have gone up consistently over the years, despite an industrial park being down the street. There also would be no adverse affect on property taxes.
As far as traffic, Polywood would try to control traffic entering and egressing its campus. Brooklyn Street will be improved and there will be additional patrols by Syracuse Police Department, but traffic is expected to increase.
One resident attending the meeting via zoom asked what would be built on the property. Snyder said a facility that will house both offices and manufacturing. The building will have 211 parking spaces.
The resident also expressed concern about Polywood employees speeding through the area. She asked about installing speed bumps to slow traffic down. Snyder said that would be something the town would have to consider.
She also asked how the increased semi traffic would affect roads and if there would be any issues regarding the sewer. She specifically mentioned public works employees cleaning rags out of the sewer system after they caused a back up.
Mike Noe, town manager and public works superintendent, explained flushable wipes really aren’t flushable and tend to clog up sewer lines. However, there are lift stations available with grinder pumps that shred debris before it reaches the sanitary sewer lines. The new building will have a lift station with a grinder pump.
Bore holes were drilled earlier Tuesday, in preparation for the road improvement. Brooklyn Street will be improved so it can handle semi traffic.
Cole Powell asked what the expansion will do to the waste water plant’s capacity, will it need to be expanded. Noe said the town treats about 400,000 gallons while the plant can handle approximately 1.5 million gallons so there will be no issues with the waste water plant.
Powell also asked about electricity. Polywood recently installed a substation which went on-line two weeks ago. By having Polywood on its own substation, it has increased electrical capacity to the town.
Another resident asked if there was anyway for Polywood to police its employees as they entered and left the campus. Many are racing through the neighborhood where a lot of children play. One gentleman said he has had to stop drivers from speeding down his street while another lady said on her street they threw trash cans at the speeders.
Snyder said the town will work with Polywood to address the issue.
The town addressed a resolution fostering an agreement with Kosciusko Economic Development Corporation. Councilman Larry Siegel asked how the town and KEDCO were going to obligate a third party, namely a developer, to reimburse both the town and KEDCO for pre-development services. Vern Landis, town attorney, explained the issue would be addressed in the contract.
“Some of the things they’re suggesting, we’re already doing,” Siegel said about KEDCO working with developers on building more workforce housing. Council president Paul Stoelting said the council is not in the business of developing property.
“From my standpoint, there are a lot of things I don’t know how to do. I don’t think the town should be in the development business,” Stoelting said. He continued saying he was willing to work with KEDCO to make some progress addressing a huge need in Syracuse and the county. “We need as much effort and manpower as we can get to meet this need,” he said.
Councilman Tom Hoover said he had reservations about the agreement, but thinks $25,000 is a minimal investment while KEDCO is working with other communities and chambers. “$25,000 is a cheap truck for the sewer plant. If we can drag a business in for that, that’s a good investment,” he said. “I don’t think we have anything to lose.”
The council voted 4-1 in favor of signing the agreement with KEDCO.
Ben Plikerd, owner of Brooke Point Inn, came before the council asking if there was a way he could tap onto the town’s sewer line. Plikerd’s property is 30 acres and he has an option to purchase more to put up more cabins and retirement villas.
However, the property is currently on a septic system and the state won’t allow him to expand unless he is on a sewer. Plikerd asked the council if he paid for the materials if there was a way to offset the cost of labor.
The issue is Brooke Point is not within the town limits and would have to be annexed for the town to consider letting the Inn tap onto the sewer line. The council decided to take the discussion with Plikerd offline.
Noe reported employees at the waste water treatment plant were supposed to be trained on the belt press before the pandemic hit. They were recently able to complete their training and have the belt press repaired at the same time.
The water department has its new pickup truck and is still trying to sell the old one.
Noe asked the council to approve handing the ball fields over to Polywood by Nov. 1 if all the equipment and other items were salvaged by then. Councilman Larry Martindale objected stating he wanted by the end of the year to complete the clearing out.
In addition to removing items in storage, Martindale is also working on having the light posts removed so they can be used at the new park. Polywood can begin some preliminary work while the clean up work continues.
Bond Anticipation Notes are closing on Sept. 23. Paula Kehr-Wicker, clerk-treasurer, said several members of the redevelopment commission needed to stop by her office to sign paperwork.
Police Chief Jim Layne told the council he will be bringing an amended ordinance regarding the Metropolitan Police Commission. Noe needs to step off the board since he doesn’t live in town. The commission needs to find a member who lives in town.
If that member is not a council member the commission must purchase a $5,000 bond and pay that member a stipend. The commission meets a minimum 4 times a year as required by law.
The police department was approved for a $214,375 grant from Homeland Security. The money will be spent on portable radios as well as metal detectors at Wawasee High School and blue phone stations so students or staff can call for help if needed.
Fire Chief Mickey Scott reported the new fire engine should arrive either later this week or early next week. Once it’s in service, the old one will be sold.
The council approved the fire department spending $3,000 for turnout gear for a new fire fighter. It’s expected to arrive by mid-December.
A benefit walk will be held for the Hoosier Burn Camp. this is a five mile walk with approximately 100 walkers already signed up. A new trainee with the department is coordinating it and the public is invited to participate. The walk will be held from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m, Sunday, Sept. 27. The walk will start in the south parking lot of Station I.
“I just wanted to say thank you for allowing me to serve the council and the town these past 4-5 years,” said Kehr-Wicker. “There have been struggles but we got through them.” This was Kehr-Wicker’s last council meeting before her resignation becomes final later this month.
Hoover expressed his appreciation to Kehr-Wicker for her help when he first came on the council.
In new business, Siegel announced he received notice from Oakwood Real Estate it would like to send a representative to the October council meeting to discuss building 50 new homes in Oakwood Park. He also received notice from Travel Star, a family owned company out of Goshen, that it would like to purchase lot 5 in the Syracuse Technology Park.
TravelStar makes custom thermoplastic parts and is looking to invest $1.5-$2 million into this expansion with projected growth of $20 million by year 5. There are only two lots left available in the park.