Thursday, May 24, 2012
Supervisors back zoning
By SUE WATSON
Rufus Pennington of 1041 Highway 309 North is a man with many ideas but no place to put them to work.
The Marshall County Zoning Board turned down his request to operate a concrete mix plant on his 15 acres located in a residential zone. He also asked for a permit to operate a saw mill, but zoning turned that down, as well. The board said he needs to locate property in a commercial zone if he wants a concrete mix plant and saw mill.
Pennington operates a welding business and crane rental business now and said his business is grandfathered in, as it was established in 1979. Zoning was not established until 1985, he said.
Pennington wants to get ready for the new work and jobs he said he can create with his business ideas when I-269 and I-69 construction takes off in the Byhalia area. His property is a quarter mile north of where I-269 is set to cross 309 North. He said he wants to be able to leave his son and grandchildren the business when he retires.
The equipment for the ready mix concrete plant is paid for and on the ground at his 15-acre parcel, he said. He also wants to buy a saw mill to cut up very large urban trees that are recovered from home sites. He would buy a saw mill and cut timbers into specified lengths and widths for any purpose, he said, and create a wood products business.
Pennington reminded supervisors recently, when he appealed the zoning board’s refusal to give him a permit, that the purpose of I-69 has always been stated to stimulate growth in rural areas. He cited numerous other businesses in the 309 North area – Standard Construction, Marshall County’s satellite office, a mechanic’s shop, a wrecker service, a forklift battery recycling business, and several vacant businesses located in his area.
Zoning mailed 83 letters to his neighbors and received three objections. No one came to the hearing to protest his permit request, he said.
Pennington said he has 15 ready mix concrete trucks and equipment sitting on his property waiting to be put to use, a welding business, and a desire to make concrete products and use 23 cranes to take down large trees and bring them to be sawed - an urban forestry business.
He said people want jobs, the county wants jobs created and he wants to be one to create employment for others.
Covenants in the Chickasaw Trail Industrial Park do not allow him to operate a business there and the Town of Byhalia has refused him a place to move his business, he said.
One neighbor, Susan Howell, who owns property adjacent to Pennington’s property, appeared before the board of supervisors in support of zoning’s ruling. She said she objects to the ready mix operation because it would create a lot of traffic in and out of the property, create dust, and change the nature of the community.
“I understand his desires to grow his business and the economy,” she said. “We are five to 10 years before that new highway will be built. I want you to consider the change it will bring to the community’s lifestyle. It is hard to object because he is a friend and a family friend.”
Supervisor Keith Taylor said Pennington is known for the jobs he will tackle and he is well-liked.
“He’s more like a fixture,” he said. “You won’t find a better person. He’ll give you the shirt off his back.”
About 15 citizens have asked that the concrete mix plant not be permitted, he said, but they didn’t want to have to stand up and say so. They objected but did not want hard feelings, Taylor said.
“People don’t want to give their names when they oppose,” Taylor said. “They did not want it in their neighborhood.”
Some people called on Pennington’s behalf, as well, he said.
“His heart’s in the right place,” Taylor said.
Supervisors took turns apologizing to Pennington for having to take sides against his request. Supervisors Charles Terry and George Zinn III applauded Pennington for his ideas, while they also voted to uphold zoning, as did supervisors Ronnie Joe Bennett and Eddie Dixon. Terry and Zinn commended his efforts to create jobs and encouraged him to look hard for a suitable location for his concrete plant and saw mill.
With discussion ended, supervisors voted unanimously to uphold zoning’s denial of Pennington’s requests for permits.
Pennington said in an interview after the board’s decision, “It ain’t over. The fat lady hasn’t sung yet.”
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