HANCOCK COUNTY — A 2.2 million-square foot distribution center with more than 2,000 parking spaces is coming to the Mt. Comfort Corridor, but the county’s economic development chief isn’t yet ready to announce who will be operating out of it.

Carlson Consulting Engineers, Inc. of Bartlett, Tennessee, is providing professional civil engineering services for the development on two parcels totaling more than 203 acres near the southwest corner of County Roads 500N and 500W. The site is north of Indianapolis Regional Airport and abuts McCordsville’s southern border. It’ll consist of a distribution center of about 2,232,000 square feet and 2,089 parking spaces, according to documents filed with the Hancock County Planning Department.

Randy Sorrell, executive director of the Hancock Economic Development Council, told the Hancock County Board of Zoning Appeals last week that he’s been working with Carlson Consulting Engineers on the project for several months.

“This is a very important project,” Sorrell said. “You see the sense of scale — we’re talking about a building in excess of 2 million square feet, 2,000 parking spaces, and it’s going to be filled with people and equipment.”

He added it will be owner-occupied but told the Daily Reporter after the board of zoning appeals meeting that he’s not yet able to announce that owner’s identity or other details, per the terms of a nondisclosure agreement.

Sorrell told the Daily Reporter that it’s difficult to determine how the proposed building’s size compares to other large properties in the county, as ones like Keihin, Avery Dennison and Indiana Auto Fasteners have undergone expansions over the years.

It’s easier to compare it to other large industrial buildings going up in Mt. Comfort, however. For instance, it’ll be more than three times larger and have more than twice as many parking spaces as a structure being built for Amazon to operate out of.

Before Carlson Consulting Engineers’ project could move forward, it needed four variances granted from the county board of zoning appeals. One was to exceed a 50-foot height building restriction to 85 feet. Mike Dale, executive director of the Hancock County Area Plan Commission, said the facility will use an automated material handling system requiring a building height of 75 feet and that rooftop mechanical equipment will require an additional 10 feet in height.

Casey Wilder, senior program director of Carlson Consulting Engineers, said the 85-foot height will make up about the middle third of the building and that the rest will be 60 feet tall.

Officials noted during the meeting that the Federal Aviation Administration still has to sign off on the building’s height due to the proximity to the airport.

The development also needed a variance to encroach 15 feet into a side yard setback, resulting in a 30-foot landscape buffer and 15-foot utility easement between a proposed above-ground fuel tank and a property line shared with a residence to the northwest of the site.

Variances were also needed to exceed a 30-foot light pole mounting height restriction to 35 feet and reduce a 10-by-20-foot parking space dimension requirement to 9 by 20 feet.

The board of zoning appeals voted 3-0 in favor of the variances, with Michael Long recusing himself due to his employer having a minor involvement in the project.

Brad Armstrong, a member of the county’s board of zoning appeals and a county commissioner, admitted it was unique to approve variances for a proposed development without knowing who will be operating out of the property or exactly what they’ll be doing.

“It is a little bit odd that you can’t have all the details, but I think we have all the functional details that we need to be able to make a proper zoning decision,” he told the Daily Reporter.

The area for which the development is proposed has long been targeted in the county’s comprehensive plan for manufacturing and distribution operations, Armstrong also said.

He added it’s important to have faith in county executives like Sorrell.

“They’re not going to lead us to a project that’s not going to be in our best interest,” Armstrong said.

Barry Wood, McCordsville Town Council president, sent a letter supporting the proposed project to the county board of zoning appeals on behalf of town.

“McCordsville has been one of the fastest-growing communities in the state of Indiana for the past several years, and we are well poised to continue that growth,” Wood said in his letter. “Projects such as the one under consideration by Carlson Consulting will not only move Hancock County forward but will also drive development along the Mt. Comfort Corridor.”

Wes Brown, project manager for the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, voiced his and his employer’s support for the project at the meeting as well.

No one spoke in opposition to the project at the meeting. Lowell Thomas, owner of Kingen Gun Club, which is on County Road 500N across from the proposed development, asked when construction would begin and whether the road would be widened.

Wilder said he hopes for construction to begin later this year but couldn’t be certain. He added 500N may be widened, and if it is, it will be to its south and not on the side of the road where the gun club is located.
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