The Children’s Factory was the first light industrial manufacturing company to be rezoned in a new I-2 general industrial zoning district.

The board of aldermen approved the rezoning request for the factory, located at 510 S. McKinley St., after a public hearing Monday night.

Representing the factory were Bob Graman with Waldo Realty, which owns the property, and Chris Gunn with InSite Real Estate, project managers for an expansion project that is underway.

In March, the factory owners requested a conditional use permit that will allow for a 40,000 square-foot expansion at its current site. The industry is now part of a larger company with three operating entities, one in Union, one in Pacific, and one in Angola, Ind.

Union is the company headquarters.

The new district imposes strict performance standards industries must comply with (see separate article).

“On behalf of Waldo Realty and Children’s Factory, I do want to say that we are committed to being good neighbors — continuing to be good neighbors — and are fully committed to those performance standards,” Gunn said.

Neighbors raised concern about buffers between the industry and neighboring homes.

Marian Robertson wanted a larger buffer zone and Chris Dieckhaus requested that the ordinance be less restrictive about the type of buffers.

Gunn addressed concerns about a fire lane, setbacks and buffer zones.

“We’re signing up to be in a more strict district because we think it’s the right thing to do,” Graman said. “It’s best for our neighbors and best for business operations.”

No Restrictions

City Attorney Tim Melenbrink said that there are no restrictions as far as what the business owners can do, as long as they continue to operate as a manufacturing facility.

“I can’t stop them. You can’t stop them,” he told the board. “It’s not good, folks, it’s not good,” he added.

The board, residents present and the city attorney all agreed that the Children’s Factory has been a good neighbor over the years, but residents might not be as lucky in the future if someone else were to operate at the site.

“Residents have zero protection right now,” Melenbrink said.

With the new ordinance, however, industries “are truly, and I think significantly, bound by what they can do,” he said.

The ordinance, with minor changes including the buffer request, was approved unanimously.