As Pendleton grows, residents want to keep the small town feel. The town is on the National Register of Historic Places. Staff photo by Don Knight
As Pendleton grows, residents want to keep the small town feel. The town is on the National Register of Historic Places. Staff photo by Don Knight
PENDLETON – When Helen Reske and her husband, Eric, moved into one of the historic houses in Pendleton proper in 1964, they were struck by the town’s idyllic Norman Rockwell atmosphere.

“We liked the looks of the town. We’re small-town folks. We liked the historic buildings. That was our initial attraction to it,” the Michigan native said.

A founder of the Historical Fall Creek, Pendleton Settlement in 1988, Reske was one of the residents who worked tirelessly to achieve the town’s status on the National Register of Historic Places.

But with the approval of two new subdivisions and the courting of businesses by city leaders, things have been changing – and not for the better, Reske told the Town Council on Thursday. Pendleton, she said, has a comprehensive plan promising no developments that would increase the tax rate, that any new construction would remain architecturally consistent with the look of the town and that new developments would not inconvenience existing residents.

“The Plan Commission did not follow the plan that Pendleton passed,” she said. “The full council keeps approving everything that the Plan Commission recommends. They don’t question anything much at all.”

But some council members, including President Jessica Smith and Robert Jones, said change is coming to Pendleton whether some residents like it or not. Though she hadn’t planned to speak, Reske said she felt compelled after Jones talked about increased quality of life.

“The word quality sparked me to think what they are planning now is not quality living for the rest of us because of the crowdedness,” she said to thunderous applause from about 30 residents in the audience.

This is a disagreement on growth that is taking place in municipalities throughout the county and state. Some residents advocate for managed growth in an effort to maintain the quality of life that attracted them to their communities while elected and appointed officials wrestle with increasing infrastructure and staffing demands.

“I think they have an idea they’d like to be like Fishers that has grown exponentially in the last 10 years,” Reske said.

Pendleton is not prepared for the kind of growth the council is approving at recommendation of the Plan Commission, she said. In addition to concerns about construction quality, she is worried about increased traffic levels the new subdivisions and businesses are likely to bring.

For instance, the two proposed subdivisions, one of which already has been approved by the council, will have a total of 286 homes, Reske said. According to her calculations, that would bring 1,230 people – two adults with an average of two children – to town.

Because of the expense of the homes, estimated at about $250,000 each, these will require two incomes, which means two people going to work in separate vehicles, Reske said. In addition, their children will need to be dropped off or picked up from school until they are old enough that two additional cars will be added to most households.

“They don’t have the roads that are capable of handling this, and they are putting this in before they have any kind of a county plan,” she said.

Town planners predicted 30 years ago the growth that Pendleton would experience, Reske said. Even so, they refused to implement impact fees on developers that would require them to pay for infrastructure needs, such as new schools, roads and public safety needs, she added.

Jones said he would rather look at a cornfield than at a factory. However, because change is imminent, it’s best that the town have in place a quality plan to disrupt the lives of residents as little as possible, he added.

“It’s a good thing, my two cents worth, that people want to live here,” he said.

Smith agreed.

“There will be some growing pains. I’m not going to lie to you,” she said.
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