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Hyrum residents convince Planning Commission to deny rezone of JBS land

September 7th, 2014 Posted in Opinion

By Michael Royer

HYRUM — A group of fired-up Hyrum residents filled the Civic Center Thursday night to voice concerns about a rezone request — and their voices were heeded by the city’s Planning Commission, which denied the request from JBS Swift USA LLC to rezone property from Residential R-2 to Manufacturing M-2.

Hyrum residents who attended the public hearing are happy for now, but the issue is far from over.

“This is great news,” resident Shaunaleen Crapo said. “The committee that we selected to watch out for us did their job.”

The meeting, which the planning commission called one of the largest and most anticipated of the year, saw more than 40 city residents show up to protest JBS’s request. JBS is the largest beef producer in the world with 10 facilities in North America, and has owned and operated the Hyrum plant since 2007.  JBS owns the property at approximately 180 West to Center Street between 320 North and 370 North, now zoned as residential, and wants it rezoned for manufacturing use.

“The plant here in Hyrum is a huge asset to JBS and it is worn out, it needs a lot of improvements,” said Jay Rawlings, JBS site manager. “The customer is changing, the retailer is changing, the business is modernizing and the plant can’t keep up with it. It needs the mechanical advantages that are available out there that we don’t have in the facility now. We need this expansion to stay current in the industry.”

Residents of Hyrum with homes bordering the JBS property face the largest impacts from the proposed rezone.

“I have lived here for 30 years,” said Shari Miller, whose home borders the JBS land. “The request of JBS to rezone this property will be a safety hazard to everyone in Hyrum if it is approved. This rezone would be detrimental to our neighborhood. There would be added noise issues, added bright lights, additional odor from the cattle, dust and added traffic traveling on our streets.

“I feel like this issue is out of my control,” she said. “This is a disaster in the making. That property was originally zoned residential for a reason.”

Gerald Miller, known by fellow residents as “the wise old one,” told the commission he was “disappointed that this city would even consider this. If anyone of you lived in one of the homes on that property border, you would not vote for this.” Miller also said he was concerned about the future, when Rawlings might leave the company and new managers are making decisions.

Another issue the commission considered was the impact the rezone would have on real estate values.

“I have had meetings with local and state relators regarding this issue,” said Ron Salvesen, Hyrum city administrator. “Homes along the proposed boundary will suffer as much as a one third decline in their property value.”

When Salvesen offered this information, several citizens spoke up including resident Ron Benefiel, who was emotional. “The real concern in this whole thing for me is the decline in property value my family will face,” Benefiel said. “I am not feeling very well with my health and I don’t have much to leave my wife as it is.”

After nearly two hours of public comment, the planning commission unanimously denied JBS’s rezone request and will recommend the Hyrum City Council do the same. “We have made our decision and we will present it to the city council where they can look at the information from this meeting and make their own decision,” commission chairman Brian Carver said.

The fight for many Hyrum citizens isn’t over. “There has always been friction with this issue between the small city and the plant,” Benefiel said. “Tonight, the city listened to us but we realize we aren’t done with this yet.”

The city council meeting for this issue is scheduled for Sept. 18 at 6 p.m.


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