PENDLETON – Countywide development impact fees, countywide infrastructure and green space were the big issues on the minds of Pendleton residents Tuesday as officials from the Madison County Council of Governments asked them for their opinion on a draft comprehensive plan.

Residents also wanted to be reassured that county officials were aware of the planning under way for Pendleton’s Parks Department, which also is in the process of developing a five-year plan.

The issue of impact fees is close to the hearts of Pendleton residents, many of whom are concerned about new subdivisions coming to the area as Indianapolis inches closer.

“I hope that’s one of the things you take away from this meeting is impact fees,” said rural Pendleton resident Kim Barnhart.

The meeting is one of several conducted by the Madison County Council of Governments to debrief residents in communities, including Elwood, Frankton and Markleville, of the results of forums conducted for the development of Forward Madison County, a comprehensive plan that looks toward 2035.

The draft plan is divided into five focus areas: including enhancing service amenities, improving infrastructure, managing growth, promoting environmental stewardship and strengthening economic prosperity. The five areas of engagement have generated a total of about 150 objectives, and that number may grow at the conclusion of the debriefing meetings.

“What we’ve heard in most places is there should be an educational component to each of these goals,” said Council of Governments Executive Director Jerrold Bridges.

Michelle Skeen, who serves on the town’s Redevelopment Authority, was one of the residents concerned about the new subdivisions and the traffic they will bring and wanted to know whether the county could impose impact fees on developers.

“It’s going to have to move quickly. They haven’t pulled any permits yet, but they can’t sit on it,” she said of a developer expected to break ground soon.

MCCOG presenter Neil Stevenson said courts have ruled that the burden of proof for communities that want to adopt impact fees is on the town. He said among the best ways to prove their case is to conduct a traffic study that will show how the additional residents will impact roads.

“It gets a little more blurry when you start to ask for impact fees for parks,” he said.

Ralph Holmes, who led the meeting on behalf of MCCOG, said residents in Frankton suggested one of the best ways to combat the costs of acquiring public safety equipment, such as uniforms that can be distributed to different departments, is to buy them collectively.

“You get cost savings when you go in and buy things together,” he said.

Resident Bob Post said he was concerned about what he perceived to be a loss of trees in Pendleton over the years, as the group discussed the environment and sustainability.

“There’s a lot of literature about growing up without green space. This disconnection from the environment can lead to problems, including problems in education,” Bridges responded. “There’s a huge disconnect between people and nature. All the literature will tell you that people are more inclined to walk when there’s shade.”
© 2020 Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc.