VANDALIA — The debate between truck traffic and economic development in the City of Vandalia intersected again during the city council’s study session prior to their regular meeting.
Bison Commercial Investments, who were represented at the meeting by Lundy Neely, wants to build a semi-truck washing facility at the Northeast corner of Dixie Drive and Northwoods Blvd. adjacent to the Flying J Travel Plaza.
In order to build the truck wash, council would have to amend the existing Planned Unit Development created when the Flying J was constructed in 2012 that set restrictions on what could and could not be built there. A request for that amendment has not been formally made by Bison representatives.
Neely has been pushing the project since March, but the idea looks to be at odds with most of the city council members. Neely told council that since his last visit, his company had purchased land west of the Flying J.
“We went ahead and bought the property because I hope and thing that eventually you are going to let us put a truck wash there,” he said.
Noting the development west of the airport by Dayton and Union, Neely argued that Vandalia should try to get its share of revenue from the growth of the logistics businesses.
“It seems to me Dayton and Union are stealing Vandalia’s lunch money,” said Neely. “I would think that at some point in time the City of Vandalia is going to want to, or be forced to accept what is going and try to make some money out of it rather than say no nothing. This is something that can benefit the City of Vandalia.”
Council members expressed skepticism and noted that they were reluctant to approve anything that may lead to more truck traffic on Dixie Drive or National Road.
“I can’t necessarily disagree that this isn’t the highest and best use of that land, and that’s a consideration,” said Council Member David Lewis. “But from my perspective, there are two big issues here. Yes, the negative effects of the development around us are great. The big difference is there aren’t any Dayton residents up here and Union is located 14 miles west and it affects none of the residents there. This affects our residents, and I’m responsible for the quality of life of the 15,000 people that live here, and that’s what we can control.
“To approve something that exacerbates an already negative position seems foolhardy. If we have been taking measures to improve the situation (truck traffic) and then approve something that makes it worse, we are doing ourselves and our citizens a disservice. For those reasons, and probably more, I’m not tending to be in favor of the idea.”
“I can’t say this truck wash would have zero effect on Vandalia, but compared to what we are up against it would be like a gnat on a camel’s back,” said Lundy. “I totally understand the city not wanting trucks to come through, but Vandalia sort of started this with Stonequarry.
City Manager Jon Crusey commented on the city’s efforts to reduce truck traffic at the end of the council’s business meeting. Those efforts include signing to encourage the use of the Airport Access Road and prohibiting semi-trucks from making right hand turns from Dixie Dr. onto National Road.
“The police department will be doing some additional enforcement on National Road as well,” he said.
Lundy said the idea of a truck wash isn’t dead despite what appears to be a tall climb to get the council to go along.
“I bleed purple blood, and I’ve been in Vandalia all my life,” Lundy said. “I would absolutely hate to have to put a $1-2 million project in Union or Dayton but I’ll do it and you will still get the traffic and zero benefit.”