Danedri Thompson
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Gardner Planning Commissioners approved a site plan for Trac-Work, a railroad construction and repair company, Monday night.
The approval will allow the company to build a 2,400 square-foot building and a large storage, gravel lot for storing railroad ties and rails at 811 Creekside Drive.
In the end, the commission’s blessing on the project came down to the appearance of an 8-foot fence that will border the property, and the definition of corrugated metal.
The north side of the fence neighbors a residential area, and the east side of the property will be visible to passersby.
“I’m not happy with the fact that it’s a galvanized fence,” Commissioner Dan Popp said. “I would like to see black-powder coating.”
Joy Ray, project architect, said there is a cost difference between a galvanized fencing and black-powder coated fencing.
“If black-powder coated fence is required then the guidelines should say that,” Ray said.
The Oct. 25 meeting wasn’t the property’s first time before the Planning Commission.
In 2008, the landowner asked the city to re-zone the property from Industrial to Multi-Family to accommodate a 344-unit apartment complex, to be called Wellington Pointe. The re-zoning attempt died after school officials complained that the building would increase the student population at an unmanageable rate. District officials also worried how traffic on Moonlight Road would be affected by a large apartment complex.
The failed re-zoning attempt meant plans for Wellington Pointe were scrapped and ownership of the property reverted to Gardner National Bank (GNB), which held loans on the property.
Attorney Curtis Holland, an attorney representing GNB, told the Planning Commission on Monday night that the bank is set to sell the property to Trak-Work on Oct. 31 pending approval of the company’s site plan.
“There is no rule or regulation that requires the fence to be coated,” Holland said. “It would be a hardship and significant cost to rim the entire property that (black-powder coated) fence… We really appreciate your approval tonight.”
Popp said if there was nothing but industrial nearby, he wouldn’t have an issue with the galvanized fencing. But, he said the commission should consider the family homes nearby when making their decision. The fencing, he said, isn’t going to break the bank.
“If this was a Walmart or a Lowe’s would you support galvanized fencing?” Popp asked Commissioner Karin Livella, who voiced her support for the Trak-Work project.
“Absolutely not,” she responded.
“The only difference is Walmart has lots of money,” Popp said.
“That’s a big difference,” Livella said.
Holland said the parties could agree to border the areas that would be visual to nearby residents and passersby.
“When we’re talking about the south end, the residential doesn’t see it,” Holland said.
After a long debate, five of seven commissioners approved the site plan with the stipulation that fencing on the north and part of the east border be black-powder coated.

In other business, the planning commission:
• approved the re-zoning of property at 111, 117, and 121 W. Park Street, 138 S. Center Street, and 112, 116 and 120 W. Warren Street from R-5 apartment house district to R-1 single-family residential.
• conducted a public hearing to consider a text amendment to the city’s subdivision regulations. The amendment would allow the city to collect filing fees for lot splits. The city council would set the fee.
• approved a preliminary plat, final plat and site plan for Grace Baptist Church, to be located at 650 E. Madison Street.
The city council will now be asked to adopt the items the planning commission approved Monday night.