By Graham Sturgeon, staff writer
The Owosso Zoning Board of Appeals granted a variance during its Tuesday, Jan. 19 meeting to allow Cargill, Inc. to build an elevator structure and three grain silos with an accompanying grain-handling system, all of which will exceed the city’s maximum building height of 40 feet for I-1 (light industrial) zoning districts.
The agricultural business purchased the 20-acre industrial site at 1509 Oliver Street for $75,000 in May 2015 and plans to begin construction this spring, according to Doug Scott of Rowe Professional Services, who spoke on behalf of Cargill during Tuesday’s meeting. Scott reported that the dimensions of the structures in question have changed, with the elevator structure being 109 feet tall, the silos 56 feet and the accompanying grain-handling leg system at “just over 100 feet tall.”
With approval of the variance request, the next step will be to submit the final site plan to the Owosso Planning Commission for review. Assistant City Manager Susan Montenegro reported during Tuesday’s meeting that the commission will need to hold a special meeting to review the plans and gave 7 p.m. Feb. 2 as the tentative date.
Two Oliver Street residents questioned Scott and the board during the public hearing with questions about noise and traffic. Scott answered that the “natural buffer zone” that surrounds the expansive site will be left intact in an effort to keep the noise to a minimum. In response to the traffic concerns, he said that the business’s entrance will be on Chipman and not Oliver, with approximately 14 trucks per day to start.
The business will also feature rail access by way of the Great Lakes Central Railroad, a point that factored into the decision to locate the facility in town instead of a more rural location, Shiawassee Economic Development CEO Justin Horvath added.
As for the number of jobs to be created by the business, Scott reported that Cargill will hire 11 employees to start and plans to double that number as the operation expands. Cargill will build a spur track to provide access to the neighboring track where eight to 10 train cars will be stationed for loading.
The board found that the request satisfied all nine criteria for variance approval and unanimously approved the variance request, citing the “essential need” for the structures in question. The final approval states that “extraordinary circumstances make the variance necessary” and that Cargill “could not do business without the towers.”