Labor union given time to change resident opinion on union hall

By Kari Williams

A labor union hoping to house a union hall on Kerth Road was given time to sway resident opinion in favor of the proposal.

Laborers’ Local 110 Holding Co. last month requested a conditional use permit, or CUP, on the east side of Kerth Road and west of Interstate 55, that was tabled by the county Planning Commission last week. A church currently is on the proposed property.

Planning Commission Chairman Wayne Hilzinger said the sentiment from most members of the panel was to reject the request.

“But then Keith Taylor, a member (of the commission), requested that we put it on hold to allow the union to contact the neighbors and change their opinion of it,” Hilzinger said.

The Planning Commission chair said it is normal for the commission to give a petitioner the opportunity to address concerns if a commission member wants to do so.

The commission’s concern, according to Hilzinger, was allowing commercial usage in a residential area.

“Under state law, a church is a permitted use in all areas,” he said. “So you can put a church in a residential area; you can put a church in a commercial area, but what the union hall is, it’s a commercial usage.”

Hypothetically, Hilzinger said if Mary, Mother of the Church at 5901 Kerth Road would close and a use similar to a union hall was allowed in that church’s place, land usage in the area would be altered.

“The bottom line is do you want to put a commercial usage in that neighborhood?” Hilzinger said.

Three residents who live near Kerth Road approached the commission at its public hearing March 19 in opposition or with concern about a union hall replacing the church, citing noise, lighting, traffic and the potential for the hall’s use as a hiring hall, among other concerns. One resident, Dave Coverstone, brought a petition with 84 signatures opposing the CUP for the union hall to the March 19 hearing.

However, the county Department of Planning, which recommended approval, stated in its recommendation the proposed use would be “similar in intensity” to the use of the church.

“The planning department is of the opinion that the proposed union hall and office constitute the reasonable reuse of a non-residential building with a comparable use …,” the report stated. “The use can be accommodated in a manner that is not detrimental to surrounding property…”

The planning department included conditions in the CUP “related to the hours of operation and restrictions regarding a hiring hall,” according to the informational report.

Hilzinger said the CUP request could be brought back to the commission in about two weeks.