January 09, 2013 - "They're not done with Oxford."
That's the good news Oxford Township Trustee Jack Curtis wanted to share with the public following an impromptu meeting last week with MSP Industries Plant Manager Tony Felice.
Felice met with Curtis and township Supervisor Bill Dunn to let them know that MSP Industries, which is owned by the Detroit-based American Axle & Manufacturing, still wants to expand its operations here and bring new jobs to the community.
"His comment to both Bill and I was he's not done with Oxford," said Curtis, who also serves on the planning commission and chairs the Economic Development Subcommittee.
Felice did not return phone calls seeking comment regarding the meeting.
On Dec. 13, the planning commission voted to deny preliminary site plan approval for a proposed 4,886-square-foot addition to MSP's existing facility at 161 Plexus Drive.
The proposed addition was designed to give MSP Industries the necessary space to begin manufacturing automotive components for Honda and hire up to 30 skilled trades workers.
Following the commission's decision, Jim Wilson, the Oxford architect who prepared the site plan and represented the company at the meeting, told this reporter that MSP "stopped the project" and he had been directed "not to do any more work on it."
Wilson said he was told that MSP was basically "through trying to get along with Oxford" and the company wouldn't be moving forward with the building addition.
Felice informed Curtis and Dunn that isn't true. "They're very proud to be corporate citizens of Oxford – he told us that many times," Curtis said.
Curtis said Felice indicated MSP is looking at two options – 1) rearrange machinery inside existing facilities in order to accommodate the company's need for more space to perform the new work for Honda or 2) continue with plans to build an addition.
If the latter option is selected, Curtis said Felice "told us that he was going to try to be prepared to come to the Jan. 24 (planning commission) meeting with correct plans for preliminary and final site plan approval."
"We explained to him that this thing can move forward," Curtis said. "But there has to be a site plan that's proper, done right and represents what's going on factually."
The plans Wilson presented on MSP's behalf were "incomplete" and "inaccurate," according to Curtis.
"You can't take an inaccurate plan and make a recommendation to the township board," he said. "Our planner and our engineer told us we could move forward, but you know we can't take documents that are not complete, that are not accurate, and recommend them to the township board."
And it was much more than just problems with the landscape plan as originally indicated.
For instance, the plans didn't show where the water from the stormwater retention pond was supposed to go and there was no exterior illumination plan, according to Curtis.
"Even if there's just one outside light, they still have to show it on the plan," he said.
This reporter contacted Wilson on Jan. 7, but the architect had no further comment regarding the MSP situation.
"Bill and I assured (Felice) that if the architectural plans came in and met the criteria for the site plan, he would definitely get an approval," Curtis said. "We don't want to take any business away from our town, let alone stifle them from growing."
Curtis also stressed to Felice the importance of having an MSP representative attend the planning commission meeting to answer questions. The company was only represented by its architect at the Dec. 13 meeting.
"I felt that MSP was not represented properly at the (meeting)," Curtis said. "(Felice) promised us that he would be directly involved the next time."
As for other issues like the 12-foot gear wheel that was supposedly sitting outside with "grease dripping off it" onto the ground – an issue raised by Planning Commissioner Kallie Roesner – Felice offered an explanation.
According to Curtis, Felice confirmed the gear wheel was sitting outside while MSP waited to get the necessary permitting to transport it off site, which the company did.
"It's not normal for them to do that," Curtis said.
As for the other outdoor storage issues cited by some planning commissioners as an ordinance violation, Curtis said Felice indicated "sometimes (MSP has) to put things outside (and) shrink-wrap them so that they can ship them out within the next week."
Curtis informed (Felice) that any outdoor storage areas must be clearly depicted on the site plan and partitioned off, so they can be approved.
"We can deal with that from a planning commission standpoint, but if it's not on the plan, we cannot (go) to the township board and recommend an inaccurate plan," he said. "(The planning commission is) there to make sure that the site plan is accurate in all details.
"The planning commission has the discretion to move forward with the site plan even with some issues on the physical piece of property, but the plan has to be accurate."
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.