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Board cancels Chemtool vote

Athans withdraws request for rezoning

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By Steve Targo and Pete Janecky

Lake Geneva Regional News

The Walworth County Board Tuesday withdrew from its agenda a vote on a rezoning request that would have allowed a new chemical plant to be built in Walworth Township.

The property owner, Jim Athans, withdrew his request for the rezoning prior to the meeting Tuesday night, said Michael Cotter, interim director of the Land Use and Resource Management Department.

Athans wrote a two-paragraph letter that stated his intention to withdraw his request and pull the project from Walworth County, Cotter said.

The County Board's action Tuesday put an end to an issue that had local residents concerned for two months.

The Walworth Township Board unanimously approved a motion to recommend denial of the request from Athans March 18 at a special hearing. That decision reversed a Feb. 19 motion to recommend county approval of the request subject to numerous stipulations.

The Land Management Committee approved a motion at its March 21 meeting to recommend that the County Board approve the rezone and conditional use request for the former Zoe Acres land at the corner of Highway 14, Brick Church and Six Corners roads. The request was for 25.77 acres of land to be rezoned from prime agricultural land to a heavy industrial zoning district.

Chemtool and Athans wanted to build a 120,000-square-foot manufacturing and distribution center and a 14,000-square-foot office building on the acreage.

On Feb. 19, the Township Board approved 2-1 a motion to recommend that the Walworth County Land Management Committee approve the request to rezone 25 acres of farm land to a heavy industrial zoning class. Supervisors Larry Austin and Bill Pearce voted in favor of the motion. Former Chairman Robert Voss voted against the motion.

At the March 18 hearing, Voss said the board received a petition of 228 signatures against the Chemtool proposal. Numerous residents wrote letters to the board against the proposal, he said.

In most of the comments and complaints, residents and business owners said they did not object to Chemtool as a business.

The concerns were about the impact Chemtool would have on the township's environment, residential health and traffic.

Also at the March 18 hearing, officials from Kikkoman Foods Inc., Six Corners Road, said the company will not expand this year if Chemtool builds a chemical plant next to its facility.

"A chemical company next to a food company is unthinkable," Kikkoman Foods General Manager Kuniki Hatayama said. "I hope the County Board members understand our position on this."

Residents who live near the proposed site expressed health and environmental concerns.

"I'd rather live next to a landfill than a chemical plant," Alan Finch said. "If it goes there, I'll move."

Numerous residents expressed concerns about how the Chemtool proposal will impact area traffic. Susan Shade said there are more than 30 different directional decisions that can be made at the intersection of Highway 14, Six Corners Road and Brick Church Road.

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