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Friday, Jun 03, 2005
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Posted on Thu, Jun. 02, 2005

Flying J appeals New Haven decision

Utah company wants to build 17-acre truck plaza on land not zoned appropriately for it.

Some New Haven residents and officials are resisting what they say is a national truck-service company’s attempt to strong-arm its way into the community.

“New Haven never backs down from a battle,” said City Councilman Paul Farquhar. “We are not afraid to stick up for something we think is right.”

Ogden, Utah-based Flying J Inc. recently petitioned Allen County Circuit Court to allow the company to build a 17-acre travel plaza on the northeast quadrant of Minnich Road and Indiana 930 near Interstate 469.

In late April, the New Haven Board of Zoning Appeals upheld City Planning Director Brian Yoh’s ruling against Flying J, whose travel plaza would include a 24-hour restaurant, fast-food options, car- and truck-fueling, and parking for 187 trucks.

Yoh, also the city’s zoning enforcer, said the site was zoned general commercial based on the city’s master plan. Fueling for tractor-trailers and 24-hour truck parking does not fit the zoning, he has said.

Rather than accept the board’s ruling, Flying J opted to petition the circuit court to review the board’s decision. The judge could uphold or reverse the board’s ruling. The city or Flying J could then appeal to the Indiana Court of Appeals.

“I would hope that the representatives of Flying J would have listened to the public,” Yoh said Tuesday. “Clearly them appealing this to circuit court suggests that maybe they didn’t hear or just didn’t care. That concerns me.”

Flying J Project Director Michael T. Miller, whom the company identified as the spokesman for the case, did not return multiple phone calls seeking comment.

Opponents of the travel plaza packed an April 20 hearing to blast the proposal. Some said the added traffic would endanger children at a nearby school and increase noise pollution. Yet residents repeatedly said they were not against a truck stop in New Haven – just a truck stop at Minnich Road and Indiana 930.

New Haven resident Shelia Berning is forming a citizens group to thwart Flying J’s plans. Berning lives in a subdivision near the proposed site.

“I don’t know if I will make a difference, but I hope this does, because I don’t want that there,” said Berning, who is enlisting supporters through phone calls and word-of-mouth. “I don’t have anything against truck stops, but I think they need to find another location.”

Yoh recommended Flying J consider land east of I-469, away from the city. That land is zoned correctly for Flying J, Yoh said, but the company was not receptive.

“My orders are very clear,” Yoh said. “New Haven has spoken through a comprehensive plan … my master document that is the blueprint I have to build towards and that was influenced entirely by the citizens,” Yoh said. “I have a very strong charge to carry that out regardless of what a corporation from Utah wants to say.”

A New Haven planner since 1993, Yoh said he has never had a company appeal a decision by the board.

The plaza would mean at least 100 jobs with a $2 million payroll, a company official has said. Flying J operates about 170 “state-of-the-art” travel plazas in 41 states and employs 12,500 people, according to the company’s Web site.

“I think they want that spot and they want to get it at any cost, and they have got the money to do it probably, I’m afraid,” Berning said.

Miller represented Flying J at April’s public hearing and told citizens and the board the company intends to be amicable in the community. Now, citizens are doubtful.

“What I see going on is they want their way,” New Haven resident Tim Doyle said. “Now when they came here they said, ‘We are going to be good neighbors, we love the community, we are going to be a great asset.’ They are twisting our arm now, to get us to do what they want us to do.”

Jim Federoff, a local attorney hired by Flying J, said there will be no additional testimony before the judge, who will review all evidence presented at April’s board hearing. He said a ruling could come soon after New Haven delivers the appropriate documents for review.

New Haven At-large Councilman Ron Steinman owns a business near Flying J’s intended site. He expects the land to be put to use eventually, but said the development must fit the zoning. He called Flying J “a good organization and company.”

The travel plaza would fill only a section of the 53-acre site. Miller said the company considered plans for a hotel and retail development on the remaining land.

“The Board of Zoning Appeals knew that the public was against it and so did Flying J,” Berning said, “but they don’t care. They want to push their end, and so we have to stand up to it.”

Courts to decide proposal’s fate

Here is how Flying J Inc.’s proposal for a travel plaza on the northeast quadrant of Minnich Road and Indiana 930 near Interstate 469 ended up in Allen County Circuit Court:

♦ Flying J submitted its development plan to the New Haven Planning Department.

♦ Brian Yoh, New Haven planning director and zoning enforcer, rejected the plan.

♦ Flying J appealed Yoh’s decision to New Haven’s Board of Zoning Appeals.

♦ The board held a public hearing and discussion before upholding Yoh’s decision.

♦ Flying J exercised its option to appeal to Allen County Circuit Court, where a judge may review the board’s decision and decide whether to uphold the ruling or overturn it.

♦ After this appeal, either Flying J or the city of New Haven may appeal to the Indiana Court of Appeals.

Source: Flying J attorney Jim Federoff

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