Tipton County Commissioners OK Functional Devices expansion

·3 min read

Jul. 20—TIPTON — The Tipton County commissioners have paved the way for Functional Devices to expand its business southward despite opposition from nearby residents.

Commissioners on Monday voted unanimously to rezone the property at 108 Wood Drive from general business to light industrial.

Ken Rittmann, owner of the property and now minority owner of Functional Devices, 101 Commerce Drive, Sharpsville, is looking to lease the building at 108 Wood Drive to the company and build additional parking spaces to that property's north.

It's not clear what exactly the company will use the building for, but Rittman said the business is continuing to grow, and he sees the rezoning as a way to keep the company in Tipton County. Functional Devices makes sensors, transformers and power controls for industries like HVAC, energy savings and building controls.

According to Rittmann, the company has 195 employees and could add 25-50 over the next two to three years.

The rezoning faced opposition from residents of the adjacent Prairie Acres subdivision.

Homeowners living in the subdivision who spoke earlier this year at public hearings were overwhelmingly against the rezoning request, saying they did not trust the company's word of what it wants to do and did not like the general vagueness around the company's expansion plans.

Those who spoke were also concerned about an increase in traffic, specifically semi-truck traffic because the subdivision's roads were not built to handle such traffic. They were also generally concerned about the increase in industrial activity and noise near the residential area.

To prevent semi-truck traffic from using Wood Drive, the commissioners made it part of their approval that the part of Wood Drive near the building be vacated, essentially restricting traffic. Rittmann said he would then build a privacy fence around the property and across Wood Drive, connecting to a privacy fence that's on the property just south.

However, that doesn't entirely prevent traffic in the subdivision because the fastest way to get to U.S. 31 from Functional Devices is through the subdivision to West 550 North as there's no direct access to U.S. 31 on 600 North.

Other concerns brought up by nearby residents, such as the noise made by the company's fans, were deemed not much of an issue by Commissioner Nancy Cline, R-District 3. Cline said she visited the business and the subdivision and saw one fan was running and said it was quiet. She added that the plant manager told her the fans would not run after 5 p.m.

"I don't see how that's an issue," Cline said about the fan noise. She added that she's "pro-business" and cited the fact Functional Devices paid a little over $50,000 in personal property and real property taxes this year. "I think that's a pretty big chunk of property taxes," she said.

The two other commissioners also said they drove around the area. Commissioner Tracey Powell, R-District 2, said that while he's not a fan of industrial near residential, since the business is already there, the county has to work with it and come to a compromise.

Powell cited the vacation of Wood Drive, the fact the parcel will be required to only house manufacturing of electronic components and that Rittmann would add the required buffering around the building as reasons for why he voted "yes" on the rezoning.

"I think we need to come up with a compromise, and I think you (Rittman) have given quite a bit and agreed to a number of things probably other developers would not have," Powell said.

Tyler Juranovich can be reached at 765-454-8577, by email at tyler.juranovich@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter at @tylerjuranovich.