Residents, business owner reach agreement

HANCOCK COUNTY — More than a dozen residents  protesting a business owner’s proposal to build a storage facility along State Road 9 returned to the voice concerns to county officials this week.

But this time, they brought an attorney.

Attorney John Molitor of Indianapolis, who represented 17 homeowners from Twin Oaks subdivision, reached a compromise with the developer and brought the commission the revised proposal, which includes 8-foot fencing around the facility, additional tree plantings and the preservation of existing trees that act as a buffer between properties.

The developer, John Smith, owner of Smith Projects, a Maxwell-based construction company, had asked the Hancock County Area Plan Commission to allow him to build a storage facility on a 2.7-acre lot in the 5400 block of State Road 9, just north of his existing business. The proposal prompted complaints from neighbors, who expressed concerns about noise, light pollution and security.

The revised plan, which was approved by the commission Tuesday night, goes to the Hancock County Board of Commissioners at an upcoming meeting for the final go-ahead.

Jeannine Gray, a member of the plan commission, said she was pleased to see both sides work together to reach an agreement.

Though dozens of Twin Oaks residents sat in the audience during Tuesday’s plan commission meeting, they allowed Molitor to do the talking.

The atmosphere was a sharp contrast to last month’s meeting, where homeowners went one by one before the plan commission, complaining about noise and unsightly conditions at Smith Projects and saying they worried those issues would get worse with new development.

Mike Dale, county planning and building director, told the plan commission he inspected Smith Projects and found no violations.

Paula Boley, president of the Twin Oaks homeowner’s association, whose property borders the proposed storage facility, said she’s content with the outcome.

Boley said she realized Smith’s request, which was to change the land use from a neighborhood to commercial property, was likely to receive the go-ahead from county officials because it aligned with the county’s long-term vision to build on commercial properties in the area.

She’s pleased with the deal, which forbids the developer from removing existing trees and vegetation from the property line and stipulates that additional shrubs are planted to provide a sight and noise barrier for neighbors.

The agreement also prevents Smith or any subsequent property owners from building a gas station — which he initially hoped to reserve as an option — in addition to several other businesses, including a bar, liquor store and auto repair shop.

Those compromises, in addition to the tall fencing around the storage facility, have quelled Boley and other neighbors’ concerns that the facility’s users would be able to wander into the neighborhood.

“I feel like (Smith) was as fair as he could be, given he wants to put a business there,” Boley said.

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Daniel Morgan is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. He can be reached at (317) 477-3228 or dmorgan@greenfieldreporter.com.