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Gary Council grants zoning approval for trucking business to relocate to Edison School site

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An abandoned Gary school could soon be replaced with a trucking business, following zoning approval from the city council Tuesday. The council voted eight-to-one to establish a planned unit development district at the former Edison School at 5400 West 5th Avenue. That will allow Djuric Trucking to move its facility from Hammond.

Several residents spoke against the proposal, citing environmental concerns and the potential for increased truck traffic. Kwabena Rasuli didn't think a trucking business belongs in the middle of a residential area.

"This sets a bad precedent. We have so many abandoned schools in this community. We don't want to have this light industrial/industrial smack dab in the middle of neighborhoods," Rasuli said.

But others felt the proposal was better than leaving the site as-is, saying that it's often used as an informal dumping ground. A review by the city's plan commission found that the business would be compatible with the area's existing development, since 5th Avenue is a truck route with a number of truck-related businesses.

Council member Tai Adkins wanted to see a traffic study, but Djuric attorney Jim Wieser said that will likely come up later in the process. "If this is approved this evening, we still will be required to return to the plan commission for primary subdivision approval, and at that time, the issue of traffic will be specifically looked at," Wieser explained.

Approval will also be needed from the Indiana Department of Transportation.

Wieser said Djuric Trucking isn't seeking any incentives from the city, and the business is expected to bring in $185,000 to $200,000 a year in real estate taxes. But Council President William Godwin noted that probably wouldn't end up going to Gary's general fund but to the Gary/Chicago International Airport.

Godwin voted against the request. Council member Mary Brown initially abstained but about 20 minutes later asked to switch to a "yes" vote.