Kzoo Co. residents concerned over rezoning of cornfield

A cornfield in Kalmazoo County could be turned into industrial space in the near future.

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Neighbors who bought homes in a rural part of Kalamazoo County 15 years ago are worried a large cornfield may become an industrial complex.

“Nobody in this neighborhood wants industrial around them,” said Sarah Deboer, a concerned neighbor who lives directly across the street from the cornfield. “They don’t want the traffic, they don’t want the headaches.”

Deboer and her husband bought a home in rural Kalamazoo County 15 years ago. When they look out the front door of their house, they see more than 200 acres of farmland.

The farmer who owned the land died and donated it to the Kalamazoo Community Foundation. Now the foundation wants to rezone the property from agriculture use to industrial use. The planning commission recently recommended the Pavilion Township board adopt that change.

“So, we’re talking a significant drop in our home value — tens of thousands of dollars lost for us,” Deboer said.

But Pavilion Township Supervisor Patrick White says the Kalamazoo Community Foundation can do what it wants with the property. Also, none of it is a surprise to the people who live across the street from the cornfield. The township’s master plan was adopted in 2000, calling for the land to be switched from agricultural use to industrial use.

“Sometimes I think there’s too much apathy on the part of the people paying attention on what’s going on in the community,” said Patrick White, Pavilion Township supervisor. “I encourage people to come to the planning commission meetings, come to the township board meetings, because you’re part of the community.”

But Deboer says she didn’t know about the master plan until it was too late.

“Yes, there was a master plan,” she said. “They review it every five years, and we had the opportunity to go and review the master plan and express concerns then. However, no one knew about the master plan.”

Deboer says it’s the Kalamazoo Community Foundation that’s pushing for the switch. The organization provided a statement to 24 Hour News 8.

“Soon after receiving the gift of this property, we learned how unique this site was for future job creation in Kalamazoo County,” foundation vice president Susan Springgate said in the statement. “Consistent with the Township master plan, KZCF is working with the Township and economic development agencies for the necessary rezoning. While we empathize with the neighbors, we’re balancing that concern with the need for jobs in Kalamazoo County.”

Deboer raised concerns over the cost of the industrialization to the neighborhood.

“While all of us in the neighborhood really would like to see the community prosper, we really don’t want it to do so at our expense,” said Deboer.

The Pavilion Township board will consider the planning commissions’ recommendation at the next meeting, which is scheduled for Aug. 14.