LUCKEY - Plans to bring 125 full-time and 30 part-time jobs to Wood County were approved Thursday evening by the Troy Township Zoning Commission.
If all goes as planned, construction on the Home Depot "state-of-the-art" warehouse-distribution center near the southwest corner of U.S. 20 and Pemberville Road may begin in July or August. As many as 1,000 construction workers will be employed on the 14-month project.
Home Depot's investment in the site is estimated at $129 million to $172 million. The proposed facility will be 1.63 million square feet - larger than the Chrysler machining plant in Perrysburg Township.
With the zoning commission approval, the next step appears to be the township trustees' and county commissioners' review of an enterprise zone agreement. The company is asking for 100 percent abatement of real property taxes for 15 years.
Wade Gottschalk, executive director of the Wood County Economic Development Commission, cautioned that the project still does not have corporate approval from Home Depot.
"We're just trying to make it as business friendly as possible," Gottschalk said after Thursday's zoning meeting.
The site was attractive to business by having access to interstates, public water, sewer, rail, gas and electric.
"The project is almost a perfect fit," said Jim Condon, of Seefried Properties, the real estate developer working on behalf of Home Depot. "We wouldn't be here considering this site tonight if it wasn't a job ready site."
But not everyone thought the plans were a perfect fit for the township. Concerns were expressed about truck traffic and additional run-off on already flooding farm fields.
Because of the zoning for the 157-acre site, designated as Business Planned Unit Development, the plans presented Thursday had to be very detailed, involving everything from setbacks, building height, parking spaces and landscaping, to drainage plans, fire safety measures and outdoor trash receptacles.
The biggest concern was the traffic that would be generated by the site.
Dave Saneholtz, of Poggemeyer Design Group, said he had already talked to the county engineer about installing a traffic signal and turn lanes at the entrance off Pemberville Road.
"We're pretty adamant we want a traffic signal there," he said.
Though the distribution center will have 300 truck docks, Saneholtz estimated the daily traffic at the site to be about 65 trucks.
Saneholtz also said the truck traffic at the site will be instructed to only head north on Pemberville Road to Route 20.
But several at the meeting said many truck drivers would likely head south to Ohio 582.
"You know the truck drivers are going to take the shortest route," said Earl Hagg, chairman of the zoning commission. "They are going to tear up that road, and you are going to have complaints."
Wood County Engineer Ray Huber said he shared those concerns.
"I'm not convinced 100 percent of the truckers are going to go the way you want them to go," he said.
However, Huber said the county already had plans for improvements on Pemberville Road, and will just delay them till after the project is completed. It will cost more than $500,000 to bring the road up to standards for truck traffic as far south as Route 582, but Huber said it could be done.
"We're going to take care of it," he said.
Wood County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Linda Holmes pointed out that the Joint Economic Development District that covers the site allows the partners of Toledo and Troy Township to collect income tax. On Wednesday evening, the two entities voted to enact a 2.25 percent income tax for the site, with the township receiving 60 percent, and Toledo the other 40 percent. That revenue can be used to improve infrastructure, Holmes said.
One neighbor of the site, Mark Lowry, expressed concerns about lighting, traffic, air pollution and stormwater run-off from the property.
"I understand economic development," Lowry said. "I'm not against these people coming in." But he asked that they be "responsible tenants, without putting burdens on the residents."
Though the developer's plans call for three ponds for water retention, Lowry said the ponds will drain into creeks that already flood his farmland.
"I deal in realistic, and I have witnessed my fields flooding" since the new interchange has gone in at Route 20 and Pemberville Road. Saneholtz offered to meet Lowry at his farm to discuss drainage issues.
Questions were also raised about construction of the warehouse. When asked if local contractors will be used, Condon said "absolutely. It's always our goal to have as much local participation as possible."
However, some audience members said the Home Depot construction site near Findlay employed all non-union, primarily out-of-state labor.
The zoning commission ended up approving the Home Depot plans unanimously, though Hagg hesitated before casting his vote. He said he was not pleased that others in the region knew about the company's plans before he was informed.
"I'm very dissatisfied with the way this was handled," he said. "I've lost the trust of the people in the township."
But Condon explained that it would have been inappropriate for the developer to approach the zoning officials before, since that would have violated public meeting requirements.
"We were as open as we possibly could be," he said.