Proposals are increasing for large warehouse structures such as this 400,000-square-foot property built on speculation in Hancock County along County Road 300N in Mt. Comfort. Staff photo by Mitchell Kirk
Proposals are increasing for large warehouse structures such as this 400,000-square-foot property built on speculation in Hancock County along County Road 300N in Mt. Comfort. Staff photo by Mitchell Kirk
MT. COMFORT — Randy Sorrell has a blown-up map of the Mt. Comfort area in his office on which he places sticky notes where developments are going.

The executive director of the Hancock Economic Development Council may need a new pad of note paper before long, as up to 12 more speculative buildings are coming to the area, adding to the nine he’s helped bring during the 14 months he’s been in his position.

The move-in-ready properties bring jobs. And as tax abatements phase out, they bring government revenue. But they also bring a need of improvements for roads, stormwater, utilities and safety, which leaders are working to keep up with as interest in northwestern Hancock County shows no sign of slowing down.

BlueScope Properties Group of Kansas City, Missouri, plans to build one spec building just less than 280,000 square feet south of County Road 200N, west of Buck Creek Road and just north of I-70. The project is estimated to cost $13.5 million.

Matt Roth, vice president and general counsel for BlueScope Properties Group, told the Hancock County Council on Feb. 12 that the firm is excited about the project.

“It looks like it would be a very flexible space to be able to use light manufacturing, some assembly, maybe logistics,” Roth said.

Opus Development Co. of Indianapolis wants to develop several spec buildings southeast of the intersection of County Roads 300N and 700W. The firm is considering two site plans, one with three buildings and another with four. Structure sizes range from 150,000 square feet to 500,000 square feet for a total investment ranging from $75 million to $100 million.

Peterson Companies of Indianapolis is working with Becknell Industrial of Carmel on plans for two spec buildings just north of Indianapolis Regional Airport on the east side of Mt. Comfort Road. One of the buildings will be 260,000 square feet, and the other 390,000 square feet. The development is estimated to cost $26 million.

GDI Construction of Indianapolis intends to develop three spec buildings on County Road 500N west of Mt. Comfort Road. Two of the buildings are tentatively planned to be just more than 400,000 square feet, and the third is tentatively planned to be just more than 200,000 square feet. The project is estimated to cost $55 million.

That development will be just north of a current GDI Construction project consisting of two 200,000-square foot spec buildings. Edward Walter, an attorney with Greenfield-based Pritzke & Davis representing GDI, told the county council that one of the buildings is finished and almost fully leased.

Joel Fritz plans to develop two spec buildings in Alliance Interstate Park, which is between County Road 700W and Buck Creek Road just north of Interstate 70. His company, Indianapolis-based Commercial Team Construction, will construct the buildings. One will be 28,000 square feet and the other will be 31,500 square feet. They’re estimated to cost $4 million.

Walter, who also represents Fritz, said the company hopes to attract one or two smaller manufacturing firms to each building.

That was a plus for Hancock County Council President Bill Bolander.

“I kind of like these little buildings better than the big ones, really, because they (have) a better chance of getting better jobs in them, I think,” he said.

At a Hancock County Redevelopment Commission meeting on Feb. 13, Sorrell said they’ll make a nice addition to the big buildings already under construction or on the way.

“For my purposes, it sort of adds to the portfolio of things I can offer,” he said. “When we get a call that someone needs 25,000 square feet, they don’t want a corner in a 500,000-square foot building… It will give us an opportunity to have something to talk about with those folks.”

The county council unanimously approved a 10-year property tax abatement for Opus Development’s proposed development on Feb. 12.

The council also unanimously approved declaratory resolutions regarding 10-year abatements for the other four proposed spec building developments. The council is scheduled to hold public hearings and final votes on those abatements at 9 a.m. Wednesday, March 11, in the Hancock County Annex, 111 American Legion Place, Greenfield.

All of the tax abatements would start with a full break for the first year, then gradually build up over the decade to a full bill.

Officials are working to keep up with Mt. Comfort-area spec projects.

Susan Bodkin, Hancock County surveyor, had formerly planned on commissioning a regional stormwater detention study for the area between and near I-70 and County Roads 700W, 800W and 250N.

But now BlueScope Properties Group intends to develop in that area, and there’s even more interest nearby, Bodkin and Sorrell said at the recent county council meeting.

“Private enterprise is going to move faster than the government in this case,” Bodkin said. “Those people are not going to wait two years to build those buildings.”

Now, she plans to hire a consultant to help her ensure detention ponds at forthcoming developments in that area interconnect in a way that will allow storm water to drain properly.

The council also approved application fees that companies will have to now pay when seeking tax abatements in areas over which the council has jurisdiction. Proceeds will go to the Hancock Economic Development Council, whose duties include facilitating the abatement process.

“The organization needs to grow,” Sorrell said, adding it’s at the same staffing level it was more than 20 years ago.

At a Buck Creek Township Board meeting on Feb. 11, township Fire Chief Dave Sutherlin said he intends to ask for an extra position in next year’s budget for enforcing fire code. He currently evaluates proposed developments to ensure they’re up to code, and said he’s finding it difficult to keep up with the influx while maintaining his administrative duties.

“I’m running ragged on plan review,” Sutherlin said.

Mike Sheek, director of business development for GDI Construction, said at the recent redevelopment commission meeting that Aqua Indiana is putting a lift station on the property GDI is developing, which will benefit sewer service in the area.

Also at that meeting, officials discussed how the speed at which development is occurring near Mt. Comfort is making it almost impossible to be anything but reactive when it comes to infrastructure improvements they’re responsible for.

Steve Vail, a redevelopment commission member, said he’d like to see a more comprehensive approach to preparations for the area.

“As much as we can get ahead of it with some thoughtful planning, we need to make an attempt,” Vail said.
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