CARTERSVILLE, Ga. (April 9, 2004) — A citizens' group opposed to Toyo Tire & Rubber Co. Ltd.'s plan to build a $150 million tire plant in Bartow County has withdrawn a lawsuit seeking to overturn a rezoning decision, but the group continues to appeal to Toyo to reconsider its decision to build the plant there.
The citizens' group, comprising 13 local property owners, said in a statement they decided to withdraw their opposition in large part because they were threatened with a countersuit by the Joint Cartersville-Bartow County Industrial Development Authority and landowners who support the decision to rezone a 250-acre site near Cartersville to commercial.
Toyo, which disclosed in late February it is committed to building a tire plant in the U.S., has not commented publicly on the situation with residents.
The tire maker continues to review other possible sites for the plant alongside the Bartow County property, sources said.
The Bartow County group, which is known as Residents Against Spot Zoning (RASZ), said its members were served papers that threatened to hold them liable for damages if the appeal was not dropped.
“To proceed with the appeal and not prevail would grant legal standing for these suits to proceed,” the group said in a statement posted on its Web site. “Clearly, the costs of defending these actions would be prohibitive to this neighborhood of mostly retired citizens.”
RASZ accused the local zoning board of a number of deceptive actions, including circumventing prescribed procedures regarding the public disclosure of rezoning requests.
Prior to RASZ's decision to withdraw its lawsuit, economic development sources in Georgia said Toyo had backed away from constructing a plant in Bartow County.
In an open letter to Toyo posted on the group's unofficial Web site, www.citizenbart.com, the group said it originally had no objections to Toyo building in Bartow County, as long as it did so in “one of the industrial parks provided by the taxpayers.”
Now, however, the group said it wouldn't welcome Toyo because of the perceived deceptions.
RASZ, citing public documents, also said local government officials have offered Toyo an 18-year abatement on property taxes and pledged infrastructure changes to accommodate the plant that are valued at nearly $13 million.
Toyo has budgeted $150 million for a U.S. factory capable of making 2 million passenger and light truck tires a year.
Toyo has evaluated several sites “in the eastern half” of the U.S. for the factory, but bestowed “favored” status on a site in Bartow County.
The site is only about 25 miles east of Rome, Ga., where Pirelli S.p.A. has its sole U.S. tire plant.
The facility would begin production by early 2006 with initial employment of 350. A decision on site selection initially was set for early March.
Toyo is using the consulting services of James N. Gray Co., a Lexington, Ky., construction company that has built several large Japanese-owned automotive plants.
A spokeswoman for James N. Gray said Toyo is reviewing other sites.
Lindsay Chappell, Crain News Service, contributed to this report.