Zoning denial leaves Bement firm's plans uncertain
BEMENT — The village's largest employer wants to expand, but exactly where that will take place is up in the air, according to Cim-Tek Filtration President James Ayers.
The first step in a possible expansion for the Piatt County business hit a roadblock when the town's zoning board of appeals voted 3-2 last month to deny a request to rezone a residential piece of property for industrial use.
"The ones against it cited the safety of their children, noise concerns and basically just industrial areas creeping into residential areas," said Kevin Schnebly, chairman of the zoning board of appeals.
Ayers said Cim-Tek wants to build a 9,200-square-foot storage building on an empty residential lot the firm owns just north of the current plant. The idea is to open up space and add a second shift at the 100,000 square foot facility.
He estimated the move would add 30 to 40 jobs to a 95-employee workforce.
"Our business is expanding and we'd like to locate as much as possible where we are currently located," Ayers said.
But he adds that moving out of Bement is an option if a deal cannot be struck.
"We know we need more space, the question is where it will be," said Ayers, noting that demand for the company's fuel filtration products is on the rise.
The village board could overturn the zoning board action with a two-thirds vote, but Mayor Mollie Stevens said they will need to gather more information before such a vote could take place.
"I want to research it and look at the whole situation before we make a decision," said Stevens. She hopes to talk soon to representatives of Cim-Tek, the Bement Area Chamber of Commerce and concerned neighbors about the situation to see the best option to keep the business in Bement.
"People don't realize that (if it left) it would affect every business in this town," she added.
Other options include one that would see Cim-Tek expand the Bement plant to the west onto the Durbin Construction property. Cim-Tek would find a place for Durbin to locate under that scenario, one that is being investigated by the company.
Schnebly said he could be convinced to rezone the residential property, but would like Cim-Tek to look to the west first.
"If there is another option to keep it in the industrial area, then we wouldn't need to impose it on a residential area," said Schnebley.
The plant could also move operations to its smaller Arcola facility, which currently has five employees. Ayers said the options of moving out of state to Indiana or South Carolina are also being reviewed, especially if "the state of Illinois continues its anti-business climate" that has included higher corporate tax rates and increased workers' compensation costs.
Tabitha Elder, president of the Bement Area Chamber of Commerce, found the zoning board's action "very disappointing. We have tried to make people aware of what they (Cim-Tek) do for our community and Piatt County as a whole."
A chamber study conducted earlier this year showed that about half of Cim-Tek employees live in Bement, and that the company generates about $100,000 in tax revenues for Piatt County.
It is the second time the village has denied a rezoning request for the property. Cim-Tek had proposed a parking area for the empty residential lot several years ago.
Ayers said the company would also like to tie the plant's two major facilities together by closing the portion of Wilson Street that runs between them. That would also take village board action.