Zoning changes recommended for The Equity

Bruce Vernon with Effingham Equity speaks to the Effingham Plan Commission about his request to rezone three tracts of land to general commercial. Dawn Schabbing photo

EFFINGHAM — The Effingham Plan Commission has recommended a zoning change on three tracts of land owned by The Equity so the company can expand.

Bruce W. Vernon spoke to the commission on behalf of The Equity Tuesday, asking that land now zoned single-family residence, multiple dwelling and neighborhood shopping, all become a general commercial district.

The tracts are near The Equity, along North Merchant Street and West Roadway Avenue.

Tract 1 is now being used for storage of larger agricultural-related merchandise and materials. The area at 810, 812 and 814 North Merchant previously had homes that were demolished. The company is proposing to use the area for additional storage and future parking.

Tract 2 also recently had a residential home demolished and has been proposed for additional storage of merchandise and materials and future parking. It is at 704 N. Merchant St.

Tract 3 has The Equity corporate offices, retail store and parking. It is at 201 W. Roadway Ave.

“We’re asking for the zoning change on the properties for additional storage space, our hardware division and possible parking,” said Vernon. “Also in the future, it is likely we will need additional space for our corporate office.”

The Equity said in its petition for the changes that the business offers more services in the agriculture field, which has resulted in additional employees and the need for more parking. The company also wants to expand the ag products offered at the retail store with some products being more suitable for outside storage due to their size and other factors. The request is to make all three tracts of land the same at general commercial.

Vernon said The Equity has been in business for 100 years. It is a farmer-owned cooperative at 22 locations. The Equity's corporate location at Roadway Avenue has existed since the 1950s. The company employs about 450 full-time employees and another 200 seasonal employees. The Equity’s business includes Agronomy work, energy, livestock feed manufacturing, grain handling, and a retail hardware store.

“Our current (corporate) office space has the same configuration that’s been there since we were a $100 million organization. Today we are over $400 million in sales,” said Vernon. “We believe we’ve been a good community partner and a good neighbor.”

Tracy Kronewitter, who owns property at 816 N. Merchant, asked what the plans were for property next to her home.

Vernon said at this point, there are no specific plans for that lot, but eventually, it could be where the company builds the office complex. There is a fence that might be moved in that area and there are some expansion plans for livestock equipment storage in that area, too.

Kronewitter pointed out having machinery and large equipment right next door might make it difficult to sell her home in the future and affect her property value, as well.

“I think we’ve proven to try to be good neighbors and we’d like to have a conversation with you about our plans,” said Vernon. “We will definitely want to visit with you and try to find a happy medium.”

Greg Koester, City of Effingham subdivision administrator, told the commission that the zoning request does fit the city’s comprehensive plan.

Commissioners David Storm and Mark Thies said since the land use request is consistent with the city’s comprehensive plan, it should be recommended for approval.

Effingham City Council is scheduled to vote on the matter Aug. 20 during the regular meeting that begins at 5 p.m. at City Hall.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

Contact Dawn Schabbing at dawn.schabbing@effinghamdailynews.com or 217-347-7151, ext 138