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Lawrence rezoning draws opposition from residents

By Heather Graves

LAWRENCE – The possible rezoning of a 90-acre property in the Town of Lawrence drew opposition at a public hearing Monday, Aug. 10.

“The entire future of what the Town of Lawrence will become rests on this zoning request,” said town resident Andrew Schmidt.

The zoning change from agricultural to limited industrial would help pave the way for a plan by Georgia-Pacific to build a 1.1 million square foot warehouse on the property.

“There is no going back,” Schmidt said. “The flood gates for warehouses would be opened. You might as well go ahead and paint the water tower, ‘Welcome to the Town of Warehouse.’”

Scott Beining, zoning administrator for Lawrence, said the rezoning application was submitted July 2.

The Planning and Zoning Board reviewed the application at its meeting July 8, and then advanced it to a public hearing.

More than a hundred residents attended the public hearing in person at Hemlock Creek Elementary School, and dozens more virtually, to voice concerns with the rezoning.

The major concern neighbors have is the location, which is between Mid Valley Drive and Williams Grant Drive, about a mile and a half from Hemlock.

“I don’t think anyone is opposed to Georgia-Pacific coming to the Town of Lawrence, we just think it’s in the wrong spot,” said town resident Chris Lefevre.

The potential $50 million project would be used to store the company’s products, which are currently spread between five different locations.

Mike Kawleski, public affairs manager for Georgia-Pacific, said the warehouse would generate tax revenue and provide an economic boost for the rural town.

“If constructed, that would be about 285 construction jobs and $17 million in labor,” he said. “And then after construction, there would be about 75 to 80 jobs at the site.”

Georgia-Pacific estimates about 75 trucks would visit the warehouse each day.

For some neighbors, that is the reason they oppose the warehouse at the proposed location.

“Whether or not a semi coming into that curve will be able to stop in time if it sees a hazard in the road beyond that curve, which is right in my driveway, is very concerning to me,” said town resident Kim Sullivan. “My family will no longer want to live here, and I wonder how many of us feel the same?”

The land is currently owned by MS Real Estate Holdings, which has been in negotiations with Georgia-Pacific to purchase the property.

“We found them to be committed to maintaining a good relationship with its neighbors,” said Deric DuQuaine of MS Real Estate Holdings.

But in order for the project to move forward the rezoning would have be approved.

The topic now heads back to the Planning and Zoning Board for further discussion, which will then bring a recommendation to the town board at its meeting Aug. 24, following another public hearing.

If this project were approved, officials estimate it would be completed in 2022.

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