Passions ran so high at a crowded town of Darien plan commission meeting Monday night that one of many opponents of a proposed cold-storage facility reportedly shoved an officer, leading to the area man’s arrest.
NewCold, a cold logistics company based out of the Netherlands, has plans to construct a facility on a 145-acre parcel of land in the town of Darien.
The property, owned by Steve Waddell of WW Trucking, is currently surrounded by farmland and designated as prime agricultural land under Walworth County’s land use plan. Waddell and NewCold have applied for an amendment to have the property rezoned for industrial use.
At the meeting Monday night, town officials listened to a presentation by representatives from NewCold and then comments from members of the public.
Dale Wheelock, a chairperson on the planning commission, said the turnout at the meeting was larger than he is accustomed to seeing.
“It was probably the biggest town meeting I’ve ever been to in 43 years,” he said. He said most of the approximately 35 people in attendance opposed the NewCold development.
At the beginning of the public hearing, a town of Darien man started yelling and causing a disturbance, Wheelock said. The man became incensed to such a degree that a Walworth County Sheriff’s deputy approached in an attempt to calm him down. The man then reportedly shoved the officer, which resulted in his arrest.
Other people raised concerns that the cold-storage facility would bring significant semitrailer truck traffic and pollution to the area and create water runoff into creeks. Local livestock, particularly horses, could be spooked by activity at a facility, some people worried.
Don Hillman, a service engineer who lives next to the site for the proposed development, said the value of his property would likely suffer.
“Not many people want a place with a giant tower and 24-hour trucking (deliveries) every day,” he said.
Hillman and others said they fear such a facility would attract additional industry that would alter their quality of life.
“We came here so my kids could grow up in the country, not in the middle of an industrial park,” Hillman said.
Because commission members found it challenging to answer many of the residents’ questions, they agreed to table further discussion of the zoning amendment for the time being.
Town board Chairperson Cecil Logterman said the process is still at an early stage and the commission and representatives from NewCold were caught off guard by the public sentiment.
Since there was no action taken on the resolution, a previously scheduled Aug. 30 public hearing will also be cancelled. No new date for a meeting to discuss the matter was set.
Both Waddell and representatives from NewCold declined to comment.