The city of Union has taken a “180-degree turn” regarding zoning, said City Attorney Tim Melenbrink, with the creation of a new light industrial district.

After a public hearing and lengthy discussion, the Union Board of Aldermen Monday night approved an ordinance creating the new district.

The board also approved the first request by a business to be rezoned as I-2 general industrial (see separate article).

The district was created for industrial properties that are adjacent to residential zoning districts.

“It imposes performance standards,” Melenbrink said. “We’re going to get away from that case-by-case determination of what they should be able to do when they are an I-2 District and they abut a residential district.”

The district doesn’t have to be adjacent to a residential area to be considered for I-2, Melenbrink noted. If an industry wanted to be rezoned from I-1 to I-2, they would no longer have to go through the conditional use permit process.

Currently, businesses have to get a conditional use permit to operate. Each time ownership changes, the permit has to be revised or a new permit has to be granted.

“The goal is to put in standards that will make them be good neighbors,” Melenbrink said.

The district is intended for uses including light manufacturing, assembly and fabrication and for warehousing, distribution, wholesale and service operations which would create a minimum amount of nuisance outside of the plant.

Standards

There are 10 standards an industry must meet in the new district.

Standards dictate physical appearance, fire hazards, noise, sewage and liquid wastes, air contaminants, odor, gases, vibration, glare and heat, and restrict residential use.

“If someone is willing to subject themselves to those conditions, they are going to be, by definition, hopefully, a good neighbor,” Melenbrink said.

Ending Uncertainty

Melenbrink said the issue of industries adjacent to residential areas has been largely ignored by the city since the 1950s.

With the passage of the new ordinance, the board will have the opportunity to impose standards on all future industries.

The standard industrial classification manual, which is part of the city code, outlines 200 pages of possible industrial uses.

Before the ordinance was passed, nonconforming industries in residential areas, like the Children’s Factory, could do anything described in those pages as long as it was a manufacturing use.

“We’re finally able to put an end to the uncertainty and at the same time, we’re raising the bar a lot,” Melenbrink said.