The Clinton County Commissioners agreed to rezone two areas off the Interstate-65 and Ind. 28 intersection for light industrial use after holding two separate public hearings on the moves during breaks at Tuesday’s commissioners meeting.

“There’s four quadrants (off I-65),” commissioners president Josh Uitts said in summary after the meeting. “The southwest quadrant is where we are talking about. We rezoned a total of 151 acres and changed that from ag and light business to light industrial.

“We are running water and sewer out from Jefferson to that interchange,” he noted. “It is our intention to develop it. It’s one of the only interchanges between Indianapolis and Chicago that has not been developed yet, and that’s what is really holding it back. We haven’t even started to put pipe in the ground yet. We are going to start next spring, but already we’ve had businesses flooding in wanting to build.”

Two separate public hearings were held on a 50 acre area just off Ind. 28 and west of I-65 and an adjacent area just west of County Road 800 W just over 100 acres in size.

“I think we need to have individual public hearings because first the planning commission recommendations differ between the two, and we have a number of concerned citizens on the second one and the first one did not have a lot of objections although there are people here from that community,” Liz Stitzel, executive director of the Clinton County Area Plan Commission, said. “I feel like the two cases are fundamentally different in how the public looked at them and the plan commission as well.”

The first public hearing went quickly for the 50-acre area that developer NHK is connected with. No public comment was offered. After the hearing was closed, commissioner Scott Shoemaker moved to accept the Area Plan Commission recommendation to approve the rezoning and the commissioners approved it by a 3-0 vote.

The 100 acres off CR 800 went slightly slower before similar 3-0 approval. The approval came with two stipulations from the Plan Commission, including that if a development plan was not approved by the Plan Commission within six months of adoption of the zoning district the area would automatically revert to agricultural and roadside-business use.

TMC&A Chief Development Officer Craig Forgey, representing the developer on the project, noted an interested party in the area for an 858,000 square-foot distribution facility. He noted that project could expand to 1.3 million square feet “when it’s all said and done.”

However, Forgey noted a tight window and competition among sites for the facility.

“It’s been narrowed down to four sites now in Indiana as well as around Chicago,” he said. “When the expansion will happen we don’t know at the moment. They have a very tight frame to make this happen. They are not going to let us know which site they’ve selected (until) at the earliest the first week of January.”

Forgey noted having “to start moving on April 1” if Clinton County were chosen and that “is really, really difficult especially when we are looking at going through the entire process we need to with Clinton County drainage board approval, (variances) and add rezoning in to that too.

“It would make it very difficult to meet that time line and in all honesty to compete,” he added noting a Lafayette site selected in the final four where “we could start shoveling in two weeks.”

The only homeowners to remonstrate at the public hearing were Mary and George Snyder. They mostly sought answers during the public hearing and weren’t protesting the zoning change.

“We understand that we need the development and 300 jobs (to go with it),” Mary Snyder said, noting the couple has lived adjacent to where the development is proposed for 22 years. We knew it was going to come eventually. We want to be good neighbors, and we want our neighbors to be good neighbors.”

Her main concerns were whether they would need to tie into the sewage expansion, whether they would need to rezone their property and whether a driveway to the facility would affect their property.

“I don’t think anybody has any intention to force you on to that,” Shoemaker said in regard to sewage. “Now, would it be available to you. … I can’t imagine anyone who would want to turn anybody away.”

A clarification was made later that if a property was within 300 feet of the new municipal hookup that state statute and local ordinance would require hookup.

Shoemaker noted in relation to a zoning change that he was not aware of any need for that, but his “gut feeling” was that the expansion would increase property values in the area. Stitzel warned Snyder about a zoning change until a prospective buyer was involved because they would be in danger of not being able to rebuild their house if it was destroyed by fire or other ways after a zoning change.

Forgey eased her concerns about the facility driveway noting that it would likely be as far north as possible for access to major roads and also mentioned road improvements in the area would be addressed with the county.

After the meeting, Uitts was happy to move the rezoning along.

"We’re very happy that we were able to rezone that and answer everybody’s concerns about how that is going to affect the neighbors out there that have lived there a long time,” he said. “We don’t want to negatively impact them but at the same time we want to be mindful that we want Clinton County to be open for business and open up our tax base.”
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