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The building at 1010 W. Lima St., location of the former Super Value grocery store, is in the works to become a location for corn tortilla and corn chip manufacturing.
A planning commission meeting was held Thursday morning to discuss the rezoning of the property from a B-3 (general business) class to an M-1 (light manufacturing) class.
The tortilla and chip manufacturer would be run by Denny Hensel, who was at the meeting to answer questions from the planning commission. Hensel said he has been delivering his corn to tortilla and chip manufacturers to, among other places, Detroit, since 1987 and would greatly benefit from having his own location.
“I wouldn’t have to go to Detroit to sell my product. Hopefully we could sell it locally,” Hensel said.
Selling product locally shouldn’t be a problem, Hensel said, based on research done by his son-in-law which showed 500 Mexican restaurants in Ohio as of 2009.
By using his own supply of corn and having his own corn-cleaning facilities, Hensel feels he has a big advantage in the market.
“My whole thought on numbers is out the door because I’m raising the whole product,” he said. “With corn chips and corn tortillas, there’s no magical other ingredient that you put in there. The corn is cooked in water and a little bit of lime to remove the skin during the cooking process. Other than the salt on the chips or the flavoring – whether you want a Dorito-style chip or not – there isn’t an expensive ingredient that goes in there.”
But beginning operation, Hensel said the parking lot would not be full of employees right away.
“It’s going to take time to get a market, and hopefully it goes,” he said. “It will take five (employees) at a minimum, but I’ve got to invest a lot of money yet in equipment.
“I can’t take on Frito-Lay or someone like that, but I feel there’s a lot of room for profit.”
Hensel added that there would be minimal noise from the outside of the building and the only smells would be of the corn being cooked and the aroma of the chips.
The main issue raised regarding the change in zoning was the house that lies to the northwest of the building that is still in the current B-3 zone, which allows for such buildings. But according to law director David , the M-1 class has a restriction of no dwellings unless it has a non-conforming use.
“The definition on non-conforming use is very specific in that it addresses structures that were there prior to ‘66 in the existing zoning class when it was designated,” Schwemer explained.
Hensel, who currently owns eight homes, seven of which he rents out, said he may consider investing some funds into the house to possibly rent out to workers at the building.
“When I buy farms, I don’t sell any lots off and I never sell the original home off, so I am renting homes. It’s not something I want to be doing, but the houses are too nice to sell off, and I want control of them,” Hensel said. “If I’m out there at 3 in the morning farming, I don’t want someone out there complaining, saying ‘You’re keeping me up.’”
So with the possibility of Hensel renting out the property, Schwemer suggested separating the house from the building property. This would involve taking the line that runs north and south just to the southeast of the home and extending it north to the property border. This way, the house could be left a B-3 and the building could be changed to an M-1.
All of this would be possible, Schwemer said, without having another survey done.
Even with the modifications, this still allows for Hensel to extend the property in several ways if he ever chose to do so.
Hensel agreed to the law director’s recommendations that the line be extended north to separate the house from the building.
Before closing Schwemer wanted to make the rest of the commission aware that they typically do not allow for “spot zoning,” or changing a property to a class that is different than all of the surrounding area. But he was not against the idea of making this building an M-1 because of the opportunity for new jobs and having one less unoccupied building in the city.
A planning commission hearing will be held July 9 at 7 p.m. in the city building before the city council meeting to make a formal recommendation to change the property’s zoning.
By TY THAXTON
Times staff writer