POLK COUNTY -- An idle, 1.25-acre sliver of land in Rickreall has begun to shape up like a battlefield.
Beveled Edge Machines, Inc. wants to build a factory partly on land zoned for exclusive farm use. Ron Blessing, former part owner of the company, wants 1.25 acres of his land rezoned as industrial. Although he owns enough industrial land to build the factory within current zoning limits, he believes the company would be better suited by an L-shaped building that would partly take up farm-zoned land. The factory would make the routers that make beveled edges for counters and other uses, Blessing said.
Rickreall residents spoke in favor of and against Blessing's proposal at a June 6 public hearing before the Polk County Board of Commissioners. Paul L. Smull said the land was too small to do anything else with. The commissioners should grant the zone change, he said, so "at least someone can do something with it."
Penny Cox said changing the land to an industrial zone would be counter to Rickreall's farming nature. "We need to keep the historical agricultural history of Rickreall," Cox said.
Ed Giesbrecht didn't agree with changing any zoning.
Cox also raised the concern that an industrial operation would subject nearby farm operations to dust, noise and traffic associated with industrial uses.
That's not the case with Beveled Edge, said Mark Shipman, a Salem lawyer representing Blessing. Since all operations would take place indoors, there would be no dust concern, he said.
Beveled Edge Operations Manager Paul Heronemus said that the factory would employ 10 people at the most and would not make any noise.
Shipman noted that the factory would make some noise, but estimated it would not be loud.
Lynn Garrett of Rickreall did not speak at the hearing, but entered his opposition to the plan into the public record. He feels that Blessing wants to change zoning on the land so he can sell it at a higher price, not to build a factory. "He bought a useless piece of property he knows is worthless and now he wants to make beaucoup bucks," Garrett said.
"I'm not against people making money," Garrett said, "but he can build on what he has now."
Garrett and Cox would prefer if the commissioners offered Blessing a conditional use permit. This way, the land would stay exclusive farm use if Blessing sold it or decided not to build a factory.
Blessing said he wants to build on the farm-zoned land to be farther away from a neighbor's house. Building on the existing industrial land, Blessing said, would require an inconvenient, long, rectangular building.