Hyundai eyes large area of Macon Township for proving grounds location
MACON – Residents of Macon Township attended a meeting Monday night, June 3, to get information about the possibility of Hyundai locating a proving grounds on land currently owned by Ceres Partners. The information is speculative, and residents learned township officials know very little.
The property believed to be of interest to Hyundai is a large segment of land, part of 1,250 acres, bordered by Ford Highway to the west, Pennington Road to the north and Welch Road to the south. The land was previously owned by Leland Bush & Sons, who sold the property in March to Ceres Partners.
In a conversation with a representative from Ceres Partners on Thursday, May 23, the Herald asked whether the company intended to sell the property to Hyundai, a South Korean automobile manufacturer, and the representative said Ceres Partners had no comment.
Lee Wagner, Macon Township Supervisor told concerned residents the township has not been contacted about future plans for the property. Any deal, according to township officials, would be brokered by Lenawee Now (formerly the Lenawee Economic Development Corporation).
When contacted by the Herald about the possibility of Hyundai building a proving grounds in Macon, Tim Robinson, of Lenawee Now, said “No comment. We don’t comment on deals we are or are not working on.”
Township officials did their best to reassure residents, but emphasized their lack of information about any land sale of the Ceres Partners property. Addressing resident concerns about the impact on the surrounding area, Wagner said, “They would have to abide by all environmental regulations if this were to happen.”
During the meeting, Macon Township attorney Fred Lucas recused himself from the discussion because he has done work for Hyundai.
“It would not be appropriate for me to represent the township if Hyundai comes in,” Lucas said in a phone interview. “I would not be representing Hyundai either.”
As for the reality of whether Hyundai is purchasing the Macon property, according to Lucas, no sites have been acquired in Lenawee County by Hyundai at this time.
“I wouldn’t call it a rumor,” Lucas said. “I would call it premature. There’s no certainty of any of this at this time.”
When asked by the Herald if there was a contact person at Hyundai to speak with about the proving grounds, Lucas said, “I’m not at liberty to discuss that at this point.”
County Commissioner Chris Wittenbach was also in attendance at the meeting.
“The LEDC has talked to me,” Wittenbach said later in a phone interview. “They haven’t been absolutely specific. There is an automobile company looking into that property. It’s a possibility we’ll hear in the near future.”
He understands the frustration of the Macon board and residents at the lack of information and involvement in any process, and noted the desire of residents for proactive response from the township board members. Currently, the area in question is zoned for agriculture. Rezoning would be a necessity for Hyundai to locate in Macon, and residents learned there might be little that can be done to fight rezoning.
“It would be difficult if a company really wanted to push it, for the township to oppose them,” Wittenbach said. “There’s not enough money to stop them.”
Wagner told those in attendance that any possible deal with Hyundai will come with pressure for the township from the county and the state to allow access because Hyundai “would create more job opportunities and bring money into the area.”
Wittenbach compared the Hyundai interest in Macon property to the gravel company that came into Clinton Township while Wittenbach was a Clinton Township supervisor. He understood the concern of residents that there be some type of reclamation plan in place, similar to the bond the township required before the gravel pit could be dug.
“I haven’t seen the plan, it could be a good idea,” Wittenbach said of the proving grounds. “That’s what the LEDC does is try to bring jobs to Lenawee County.”
Those attending the meeting requested a public meeting to allow discussion about putting restrictions in place for any company locating its business in Macon. The hope of residents is to be proactive whether or not Hyundai moves into the township.