Zoning dispute pits neighbors against industrial business - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Zoning dispute pits neighbors against industrial business

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"When I was a kid we hayed most of the fields up and down this road," said Marjorie Southard.

The North Clarendon resident says she is the fourth generation in her family to farm the local hills. She says she always appreciates new jobs in the rural community, but doesn't support a new business looking to come to town.

"We're opposed to it. I'm opposed to it. I think it doesn't fit the nature of this community and it doesn't fit the homes and the people that live here -- and we all have lived here for quite a while," she said.

That new business is Farmer Mold and Machine Works, a company that specializes in making machines that make batteries. The Florida-based company is looking at buying a North Clarendon warehouse to turn into a manufacturing facility.

"An advantage for the community is that we're bringing 20-24 high paying jobs to the Rutland area -- for us that's a big plus," said the company's Jim Gilmour.

And for the town, many say they too welcome the added jobs. Select Board Chair Mike Klopchin says the well-paying jobs will be a big bonus for the area.  But the select board did not immediately support the location. "The only caveat is that we want the businesses located in the properly zoned districts and I'm not so sure that this fits the bill as our zoning is concerned," Klopchin said.

The location is currently zoned for residential and commercial. The company has applied for a conditional use permit that would give them the green light. Although there is an industrial park up the road at the airport, Gilmour says their current plan makes sense. "This particular location is great because the facility exists. It's a nice size building, it's a good shell for us to move into and use existing infrastructure," he said.

But Marjorie Southard says she will fight to keep the business out. "We hope to keep it that way. Keep it beautiful, keep it Vermont, and keep out industrial. There are places for industrial -- we are not against industrial -- we are just against industrial where it doesn't belong," she said.

Klopchin says the Rutland Economic Development Corporation asked the board to sign a letter in support of the business, but they wouldn't sign it. They say they didn't want to influence a decision that is now up to the zoning board.

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