2008-05-03 / News

Hydromaster turned down again

By Scott Rawdon

BALTIMORE- The Liberty Township Board of Zoning Appeals dismissed Hydromaster Seeding Company's second request for a conditional use permit following several hours of grueling testimony April 24 at Liberty Union Middle School. In the end, the majority of BZA members agreed that not enough had changed from Hydromaster's original application to reverse a previous denial.

Richard Ricketts, an attorney representing Hydromaster owners Bob and Susan Richardson, argued that the Richardsons are, technically, farmers and the work they do at Hydromaster isn't all that different from that of dozens of regional farmers. He added that 14 neighbors signed affidavits in support of the Richardsons and their business.

Ricketts said that if the BZA were to grant the Richardsons a conditional use permit so they could continue to operate their business in its current location, they would cease some aspects of the business that draw complaints from some neighbors. The Richardsons offered to place sound and visual buffers around the property. Ricketts argued that Hydromaster only reasonably increases traffic, exterior lights are shaded, and there is no safety issue associated with the business. He described the business as a "slightly more intense use" of its agricultural property and appropriate for granting of a conditional use permit.

Bob Richardson said that most of the equipment stored at the site could be "pulled behind a pick-up truck" and is smaller than most farm machinery. He said Hydromaster has eight full-time employees and two part-time. He didn't expect the business would ever become larger than 15 to 18 employees.

Several neighbors supported the Richardsons.

Resident Carl Budnick said, "I hear nothing" from Hydromaster. "(Richardson) doesn't deserve what he's getting here."

"His equipment doesn't weigh half as much as mine," said resident Eugene Lefever, a farmer. "Everybody's got to work." He said the Hydromaster site is orderly.

"It's no different from any of the other trucks," said resident Roger Myers. "We can't run businesses out of the township."

Attorney Ray Michalski, representing those who oppose granting Hydromaster a conditional use, said it's finefor the Richardsons to promise all sorts of changes, but as of that moment nothing had changed since the Richardsons were previously denied a conditional use. "The thing has been judged," he said, and it was found to be outside of the scope of a landscaping business. There are laws in place to stop re-litigation of the same case, he said. "Everything going on now was going on back then."

Michalski said not only was a conditional use denied, but also a public referendum overturned a zoning change granted to the Richardsons.

"This is not a popularity contest," he said. It didn't matter how many neighbors signed affidavits in support of the Richardsonsthe law is still the law. Besides, hundreds of people voted for the referendum.

The opposition had witnesses as well.

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