Friday, November 11, 2016

Dairy Loses Critical Vote on Expansion

Posted By on Fri, Nov 11, 2016 at 2:15 PM

An aerial view of the Prairie Farms facility on Madison. - APPLE MAPS
  • Apple Maps
  • An aerial view of the Prairie Farms facility on Madison.

Midtown neighbors scored a win Thursday against a development they said would bring more noise and more congestion from the Prairie Farms dairy facility on Madison, though dairy owners said they will carry on with their expansion plans.

Turner Holdings LLC, owner of the milk plant, bought the empty lot behind the 80-year-old dairy a few years ago. The company had used the lot to park large distribution trucks.

Neighbors began to complain to city code enforcement officials about the trucks. City officials found that parking the trucks there was illegal, or was not an approved use of the land under city code.

Proposed fencing and landscaping along Madison for the Prairie Farm dairy facility. - TURNER HOLDINGS
  • Turner Holdings
  • Proposed fencing and landscaping along Madison for the Prairie Farm dairy facility.

Many of those neighbors began to complain only after the dairy was approved last month for a seven-year tax break deal worth more than $1 million to cover a $10 million expansion project there. That project would add three truck bays, 17,000 square feet of space, 25 jobs, and it would increase truck traffic around the site by up to 40 percent.

All of that — and questions on whether or not an industrial site belonged in Midtown at all — was brought to city hall Thursday. Turner Holdings asked members of the Memphis and Shelby County Land Use Control Board (LUCB) for permission to transform the “back lot” into a development that would allow the lot to be used for “vehicle maintenance, repair, warehousing, and temporary parking of trucks and trailers.”

Proposed landscaping for the northern border of the Prairie Farms facility. - TURNER HOLDINGS
  • Turner Holdings
  • Proposed landscaping for the northern border of the Prairie Farms facility.

The company did not get that permission from the LUCB Thursday. Only one member of the board voted for the project. However, the final vote on the matter rests with the Memphis City Council.

Many Midtowners spoke against the project during the LUCB meeting Thursday.

Many said the dairy fit in the neighborhood years ago when it mostly delivered milk to the neighborhood and, then, throughout the city. However, the dairy now serves four states for Prairie Farms Inc., a national dairy corporation, they said.

Michael Gallagher said he’s lived on Court (close to the dairy) for 74 years. He said he slowly watched as the dairy expanded, taking over several small businesses along Madison to grow to its current footprint.

“The noise at my house has grown considerably,” Gallagher said to LUCB members Thursday. “I have trouble inviting people over to my house to eat because I never know what’s going to happen.”

Some complained of the diesel fumes that waft through the neighborhood and into homes. Others complained that the dairy site has been an eyesore for years, with little done about it by the dairy owners. Some worried that the proposed parking lot would bring back flooding issues along Lick Creek. A couple of neighbors noted that the expansion would lower property values in the area.

Perhaps the loudest voice in opposition to the project came from developer Bob Loeb. He called the expansion plans at the dairy a “generational change that will go on forever.” He said the dairy site becomes a hub of activity from 6 p.m. - 6 a.m. but is a “24-7 regional industrial use.”

An aerial view of the Prairie Farms facility on Madison. - APPLE MAPS
  • Apple Maps
  • An aerial view of the Prairie Farms facility on Madison.

However, Nathan Bicks, attorney for Prairie Farms, called the expansion plan a “marginal change.” He said the expansion would only bring 14 additional round trips for trucks entering and leaving the facility per week. The expansion, also, would only require a “marginal” increase in parking on the site.

He maintained that the dairy really did want to forge better relationships with its neighbors. He said many neighbors supported the project, though they didn’t speak at the LUCB meeting Thursday for fear of what their neighbors would think of them.

Also, Bicks said Loeb has plans to buy the dairy facility and the land. So, he has a business interest in seeing the expansion project fail.

LUCB chairman Jon McCreery noted that the expansion of the plan was not up for a vote. That had already been decided by the company and by the Memphis and Shelby County Economic Development Growth Engine (EDGE). The vote before them was about a planned development on the dairy’s back lot.

Loeb said, however, that the two are linked. He said if Turner did not get approval for the back lot (and the parking it brought), they likely couldn’t manage the expansion.

“I hear the statement from the owners in Springfield, (Mo.) and St. Louis (that say they’ll expand the plant without the back lot) and they’re not members of this community,” Loeb said. “If they cared about this community, we wouldn’t be here discussing the current, deplorable condition (of the plant).”

Still, Bicks maintained that the company would, indeed, build the expansion with or without the development of the back lot.



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