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by Mark Cheffey
The Marion County Planning and Zoning Commission voted 5-0 Thursday in favor of not recommending the rezoning of 40 acres off Mo. 6 on the north edge of the county to allow its use as a paintball field.
However, the controversial issue then went before the Marion County Commission Monday for final action and commissioners voted 3-0 to send it back to the zoning commission for reconsideration (see accompanying article).
Matt and Sarah Courtney were requesting a change in zoning from A1 agriculture to C1 neighborhood commercial which would allow them to establish and operate a paintball field as a business.
The request was given its final hearing Thursday, and it drew a crowd of about 20 people, many of whom spoke against it.
After hearing comments and discussing questions for more than an hour, the zoning commissioners voted 5-0 in favor of a motion made by Kevin Meany and seconded by Andy Lehenbauer to not recommend the zoning change for approval by the county commission.
The two were joined by John David Bier, Denise Damron, and Joe Kindrick in voting for the motion. Tom Rupp abstained as it was his final meeting as a member, and Charles Webster was absent.
Some members commented that, while the paintball business had merit, a lack of planning by the owners as well as questions about whether the property was an appropriate site for the business swayed members against it.
“To me it’s the wrong area,” said Bier, after hearing from neighboring landowners concerned about its proximity to their homes.
“It needs to have a lot more planning,” Bier said, noting that he “loved the idea.”
In presenting new information to the zoning commission Matt Courtney noted he had cut the acreage down for rezoning from 51 acres, eliminating area that would not be used for the paintball business.
He also said he would include a buffer zones and install special netting in an effort to prevent paint balls from going onto neighboring property.
However, neighboring property owners voiced opposition to the zoning change arguing the paint ball business would not be an appropriate use for land located in a growing rural residential area.
Jamie Redd, the developer of the Red Oak Estates subdivision which borders the property.
“You are in a growing residential neighborhood,” Redd said, noting his 24-lot subdivision is drawing strong interest from Illinois residents wanting to move into the area to get away from higher taxes and to find a quiet rural location to build their dream homes.
Redd said 10 lots are either already developed or are about to be sold and was concerned that some of the pending sales could be contingent upon what happens with the rezoning.
“Personally, it’s going to hurt me financially,” Redd said. “They aren’t coming for the pop, pop, pop.”
Ryan Ward, said he and his family wanted to move into the subdivision for the reasons Redd stated and expressed concern about its future because of the proposed paintball business, also noting it could lead to people wandering onto their property.
“It’s going to kill the subdivision,” Ward said.
Courtney tried to ease concerns, saying he would do his best to be a good neighbor, and that he was trying to offer a activity that is popular in the area.
The comment period grew testy at times with both sides prompting Susan Gard, the acting chairperson of the meeting having to ask for calm.
In making the motion not to recommend the rezoning Meany said he had received more comment about the issue than for any others since he became a member.