As plans for a concrete plant move forward in northern Berlin Township, nearby residents are expressing concerns about its potential detrimental effects on the environment and traffic.

Savko Bros. Properties, a subsidiary of Columbus-based Nickolas Savko and Sons, plans to purchase 24 acres at 5427 state Route 37, just west of North Old State Road. Among other changes to the former salvage yard, the firm plans to construct a 4,300-square-foot concrete plant on the north side of Route 37.

The Berlin Township Zoning Commission on June 27 unanimously recommended township trustees approve a preliminary development plan and rezone the site as a planned industrial district.

Plans call for the demolition of an existing house and barn on the property, now owned by Boatman Inc. Two metal buildings on the site would be renovated and put up for lease, according to township records.

Eric Cameron, who lives near the property, said residents are worried adding consistent traffic from concrete trucks to the area could create safety problems.

"I would venture to say it's one of the greatest concerns we have as a group," he said.

Michael Shade, attorney for the applicant, said his client has been in an "ongoing dialogue" with Ohio Department of Transportation officials about plans for the site. He said ODOT has made two recommendations so far: constructing a deceleration lane to allow vehicles to turn onto the property safely; and to require all trucks leaving the site to turn right onto state Route 37. ODOT's recommendation that eastbound concrete trucks use a highway crossover west of the site to make U-turns found little support from the board, residents or even the applicant.

After the board's vote, Martin Savko Sr., managing member of Savko Bros. Properties, said he would continue to work with state officials to find a safe way for eastbound traffic to leave the site. He said he is "not thrilled" by the idea of concrete trucks making U-turns on the busy highway.

"I'm not keen on it," he said. "I cannot have it on our conscience if there's an accident caused by one of our vehicles."

While zoning commission member Darcy Kaplan voted to recommend the plan, she said the traffic proposal left her feeling unsettled.

"I'd feel better if I knew there was a solution," she said.

Shade said the overall traffic plan for the site will be reviewed in greater detail when his applicant seeks approval for a final development plan.

Virginia Black, a resident of North Old State Road, said she's concerned about the potential for concrete dust to leave the plant and affect the health of neighboring residents.

"The research does show dust is a huge issue," she said.

Black said she would like trucks at the plant to be fully enclosed as they are loaded with concrete.

As a condition of their vote to recommend the project, commission members required that the plant include state of-the-art technology to capture dust. Other conditions called for the applicant to install 16-foot-tall mounding around the site and to remove material left in the former junkyard.

Commission member Ken O'Brien said he was voting in favor of the preliminary plan for the project because the use is allowed in the township and he had a difficult time thinking of a better place for it.

"You wouldn't want all the weight of this onto a township road, or even really a county road," he said. "So a state route is probably the most appropriate."

O'Brien said the applicant's offer to allow Del-Co Water Co. to build a water tower on the site also weighed into his vote.

Commission member Steve Spangler said township fire officials have complained about low water pressure in the area for years -- a problem the tower could help resolve.

tgallick@thisweeknews.com

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