$16 million expansion moves forward

Published 9:15 am Monday, May 2, 2016

Bertrand Twp. zoning board approves Aacoa variance requests despite complaints

A group of Bertrand Township homeowners are protesting the expansion of the Aacoa manufacturing facility in Bertrand Township, saying the noise and traffic created by the company has already devalued their properties and disrupted their peace and quiet.

Approximately five people whose properties are on Mayflower Road south of Aacoa attended Thursday’s meeting of the Bertrand Township Zoning Board of Appeals, which was scheduled to consider a variance request by the aluminum extrusion and fabrication company for a $16 million expansion that will create approximately 50 new jobs.

Betty Smith, who lives across the street from Aacoa at 2065 Mayflower Road, said the value of her property and the property of her neighbors has plummeted due to the company being nearby. She said they have had to endure loud noises from the facility and traffic from semis and employees at all hours of the day and night.

She said numerous attempts to address these issues with Aacoa over the past several years have been ignored.

“They don’t care,” she said. “They have no regard for us and the enjoyment of our property.”

Smith said she might pursue legal action against Aacoa.

Smith’s daughter, LuAnn VanDalsen, lives just to the south of her mother’s home at 2105 Mayflower. VanDalsen’s daughter, Kimberly Smith, lives just south of her mother at 2125 Mayflower.

LuAnn said the family has owned the land since 1984, long before Aacoa built there in 1997 and before the area was zoned industrial. Eileen Glick, the township’s zoning administrator, was unable to determine when the land was zoned industrial.

The Smiths all said they have been unable to sell their homes because the property value has declined significantly due to Aacoa.

“We have lowered the price and lowered the price to where our house is half the value it was,” VanDalsen said.

“You can’t imagine the sound. … It is an explosion and a crash.”

Kimberly said while she is pro-business, she asked why there are no rules and regulations regarding noise, traffic and hours of operation in Bertrand Township.

Township Supervisor Steve Hicks said the township does not have a noise ordinance and that the sheriff’s department is responsible for enforcing traffic violations. He said he could confirm that the noise from Aacoa is very loud and that the traffic is an issue. He urged Aacoa to be a better neighbor to the nearby property owners.

Sharon Gregorski, who lives at 2145 Mayflower Road, four homes south of Aacoa, said neighboring residents are simply asking for a return of some peace and quiet.

Two other residents spoke in favor of the variance request, saying the area needs all the new jobs it can get.

The variance was necessary because Aacoa, which is fronted by roads on three sides, was requesting to build two additions set back 30 feet from Foundation Drive in the Bertrand Crossing Industrial District. The township’s zoning ordinance requires a 50-foot setback from public right-of-ways.

The additions will be in line with the current structure, which also has a 30-foot setback from Foundation Drive. The board approved the same variance request for the current structure in 2011.

Board members said Aacoa’s unique situation of being fronted on three sides by roads provided enough justification to approve the variance.

It was approved by a 4 to 1 vote, with Thomas Wrasse, Gretchen Carpenter, Laura Rohl and Steven LeClaire voting in favor. Mark Wagner voted against it, saying he wanted to add a stipulation that would make Aacoa address the noise and traffic issues.

Mark North, general manager for Aacoa, said the company has addressed some of the homeowner’s concerns, such as employees driving too quickly, and that they plan to do something about the truck traffic.

He said Aacoa would look into ways of reducing noise.

“We as a company want to be a good neighbor,” he said. “We are willing to cooperate as we can.”

All board members said they sympathized with the situation of the homeowners, but that their duty Thursday as the Zoning Board of Appeals was not to solve the noise and traffic issues, but simply to address the variance request.

The expansion project includes a 102,000-square-foot addition to the north of the property, a 14,800-square-foot addition to the south and another 2,335-square-foot addition to the south.

Aacoa employs approximately 275 people.

Aacoa is a division of Bonnell Aluminum, which is a subsidiary of Tredegar Corporation, a global manufacturing company.