Project advances despite protests from residents

A self storage company seeking to set up shop on U.S. 40 near Cumberland received final approval this week to rezone land for the project, despite dozens of letters from residents and the town of Cumberland opposing the proposal.

The Hancock County Board of Commissioners gave approval for 4.7 acres of land along West U.S. 40 to be rezoned to pave the way for a mini warehouse and storage facility. The proposal has been debated for months among county leaders, who support the development, and Cumberland officials, who argue the facility falls short of development standards they want for the area.

Storage Express, a Bloomington-based company that operates 90 self-service storage facilities across Indiana and surrounding states, plans to build a 400-unit self-storage facility at 6722 U.S. 40. The storage facility will consist of heated, cooled and traditional units measuring anywhere from 50-square-feet to 300-square-feet.

Before being approved by the commissioners this week, the proposal was debated at three meetings of the Hancock County Planning Commission; Mike Dale, county planning director, received more than 30 letters from residents protesting the development. The town of Cumberland, which is in the process of annexing 286 acres east of the town, including the 4.7 acres Storage Express owns, also opposed the proposal.

The commissioners briefly debated whether to approve the development, with Marc Huber saying he was concerned about the 30 residents who oppose the project.

Residents complained a storage facility might attract criminal activity and argued there are already too many storage businesses in the area.

Cumberland officials still oppose the plan, said director of planning and development Christine Owens. A storage facility is not the type of development they want to see in the area they’re bringing into town limits, she said. The annexation process launched in 2014, a year before Storage Express bought the land along U.S. 40. Cumberland officials want the area near U.S. 40 and County Road 700W to eventually serve as a new town center, with retail options, restaurants, offices and homes.

“The town would like to see that area thrive with a live-work-play atmosphere similar to a downtown,” Owens wrote in a letter to Hancock County leaders.

The county’s planning department and planning commission recommended approval for the rezoning but added some routine land-use restrictions, Dale said. The land can’t be used to build a car wash, a bar, a gas station, a liquor store or a night club, for example. Developers also have to submit plans to the town of Cumberland as a courtesy, county records show.

The perimeter of the facility will be fenced, with customers entering through a gated entrance. Security cameras will be installed, representatives have said. Company leaders hope to break ground on the site before the end of the year.

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Samm Quinn is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3275 or squinn@greenfieldreporter.com.