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Some in Lawrence concerned over potential Georgia-Pacific warehouse build

Published: Jul. 30, 2020 at 5:27 PM CDT
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TOWN OF LAWRENCE, Wis. (WBAY) - A potential warehouse build in the Town of Lawrence has some in the area concerned. Georgia-Pacific is considering an area between Mid Valley and Williams grant drive, just north of Little Rapids Rd.

That location is also about a mile and a half from Hemlock Creek Elementary School.

Chris Cherney lives just down the road from the potential site of a new Georgia-Pacific storage and shipping warehouse. She, along with others in the community, is concerned about the traffic it could bring to town.

“I can’t even fathom, I mean you’ll see it’s steady here but it’s not like it will be, and then you have to think it’s not only the truck drivers it’s how many people will they employ that’ll be coming through as well,” said Cherney.

The company’s Public Affairs Manager Mike Kawleski says currently their tissue products are stored at five different locations, the proposed 1.1 million square-foot structure would allow that product to be kept in a single location. About 75 to 80 people would be employed there if built.

“The land would have to be rezoned for industrial use and it would have to still be purchased by Georgia-Pacific,” said Kawleski. “So no land is even owned by Georgia-Pacific at this point.”

Kawleski added that, on average, there would be about 75 trucks coming and going in a day.

“Trucks can get on and off I-41 and then take county roads to and from the warehouse so there would be no need for them to go off residential streets,” said Kawleski.

But for some parents with children going to Hemlock Creek Elementary it’s still concerning.

“Ultimately we all make our own decisions, and we can advise drivers, we can advise the employees to please use the Freedom exit and avoid the school, however that’s not truly enforceable,” said Katie Schneekloth, who has two children that attend the elementary school.

For Schneekloth, any extra traffic as a concern.

“Increasing the traffic increases risks for [my kids],” said Schneekloth.

Another point of contention some have beyond the warehouse location itself is changing the zone from agricultural to industrial. Some feel that would lead to a precedent of more industrial zones as opposed to agricultural.

“It’s a very large project and I would support that anywhere other than in a place that, when we bought and built long ago, was not deemed as anything industrial,” said Cherney. “It was all agricultural and housing. So it just goes against what our plan was for this area.”

“There are a lot of kids and families and even the neighborhood that is around the school has a lot of kids and families,” said Schneekloth. “People want to be out, they want to enjoy the outdoors, they want to go on walks, they want to go on bike rides and not have to worry about their safety.”

Plus, many point to the town’s “Comprehensive Plan” for 2016-2020 that included future plans for the area such as bike and pedestrian paths and other non-industrial projects, as well as possible future industrial areas. The town’s Comprehensive Plan is a five year plan with the intention of a scheduled update for the coming year.

If the land is eventually bought and built upon by Georgia-Pacific, Kawleski says more than $60 million would be invested into the property and about 100 people would be employed for the construction.

A public hearing will be held Aug. 10th at the elementary school to review the rezoning application for the property. No action will be taken, it’s just a chance for everyone to be heard ahead of any decision.

“If there are concerns or if there are suggestions that they have, we’re always open to those. So we want to share some good solid information, answer any questions folks have so we can come up with the best plan that we can for that facility,” said Kawleski.

“I hope we can really come together and have a discussion and that we can hear all the different perspectives,” said Cherney.

“I just hope that everybody on August 10th can get together, listen to each other, and partner together to come up with a solution that truly works for everyone who is involved,” said Schneekloth.

The meeting is being held at the elementary school to promote proper social distancing, but because of the pandemic people are encouraged to submit questions in advance to the town’s email and instead attend the meeting’s live stream via Zoom. Those questions and comments can be sent to townlaw@townoflawrence.org.

Copyright 2020 WBAY. All rights reserved.

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