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Wednesday, March 13,2013

A pole barn protest

Walnut neighborhood protests Niowave with a pole barn of their own

by Sam Inglot
Sam Inglot/City Pulse

Monday, March 4 —Nearly nine months after Niowave erected a pole barn in their community, members of the Walnut Neighborhood Organization built their own pole barn in protest and parked it right in front of the company’s headquarters. It’s 14,000 square feet versus 80 square feet. Plus, this pole barn comes with wheels.

Since last July, residents of the organization have been trying to get the company to fix the facade of the pole barn to blend in with the neighborhood. Around 6 a.m. this morning, Dale Schrader, a Walnut neighborhood resident, pulled his truck up in front of the Niowave entrance at 1012 N. Walnut St. with an 8-by-10 foot enclosed trailer that was designed to look like the company’s pole barn around the corner.

On the mini-pole barn, the blue to white facade, the roof and the sign on the trailer make it look much like it’s bigger brother. However, instead of the sign reading: “Niowave — Accelerating your particles,” it reads: “Niowave —Accelerating Neighborhood Decline.” Dollar signs replaced the atom symbol in the company’s logo.

“Some officers of Niowave may have this show up in front of their houses, just like their pole barn suddenly showed up in front of ours,” Schrader said. The difference is, they only have to look at it for a day and we have to look at it permanently. We’re hoping this will get their attention to propose something other than landscaping.”

Niowave has offered to spend $100,000 in landscaping to obscure the building, but neighbors have said that doesn’t go far enough. They want the facade fixed.

Eight other residents parked their cars in front of Niowave’s building along Walnut Street to protest the pole barn and the Niowave “guest parking” signs on the street.

“Like everything else they do, they’ve commandeered the entire east side of Walnut Street and put up signs with no permission from anyone,” Schrader said. “We’ve been neighborly enough, we’ve honored those spaces — until now. We’re going to exercise our right to park on a public street. It’ll be a little bit of an inconvenience for them, that’s all.”

Schrader said the mini-pole barn would likely be going on a tour around town, starting with the Niowave building. The pole barn may pop up in front of the houses of Bob Johnson, city director of planning and neighborhood development, Terry Grimm, owner of Niowave, Bob Trezise, director of the Lansing Economic Area Partnership, and Jerry Hollister, Niowave’s chief operations officer. He said it would “definitely” be parked outside City Hall on March 11, when the public hearing for Niowave’s $500,000 personal property tax exemption is scheduled.

“If they can buy $5 million in equipment and expect a $500,000 rebate from the city, they can afford to properly fix the facade,” Schrader said.

Beth Grimm, Niowave vice president of finance, and Mark Sinilla, chief financial officer for Niowave, had no comment.

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