Online car dealer moves step closer to taking space left by Celadon

HANCOCK COUNTY — An online car dealership is a step closer to making 60 acres of the scrapped Celadon Trucking world headquarters its home.

This week, Carvana, a Phoenix-based business that allows people to buy or sell used cars online, signed a long-term lease with Celadon Realty LLC to make use of about half of the 140-acre site and the partially finished 75,000-square-foot building located at the intersection of Mt. Comfort Road and West County Road 300N. The company would bring around 200 jobs to the county.

On Tuesday, the Hancock County Plan Commission gave a favorable recommendation regarding tweaks to the development plans for the land, which, if approved by the Hancock County Board of Commissioners, will allow for Carvana to turn the site into a hub for its business, which refurbishes used cars and delivers them to online customers.

The recommendation includes changes to the development agreements, plans for buffering landscaping and an agreement by Celadon Realty to mow the areas nearest the road twice a month, officials said.

The Carvana site is expected to hold as many as 5,000 vehicles for refurbishing before they are shipped to customers, said Carvana director of real estate Chris Santone. The next-closest Carvana site is in New Jersey, he said.

The facility, which will include a site for painting motor vehicles, is expected to initially employ about 200 people, he said. At capacity, it could employ as many as 450 people.

That’s half the number of jobs Celadon promised to create before calling off its plans to relocate its corporate headquarters here.

In October, Celadon leaders called off their Hancock County project and put the property and a partially finished 75,000 square-foot-building on the market.

The $28 million project was expected to bring 900 jobs to Hancock County and was lauded as one of the biggest economic deals the county has landed in recent years.

Mike Dale, county building and planning departments executive director, recommended the plan commission give its approval to the planning changes despite his belief the the business doesn’t adhere to the county’s comprehensive plan.

While the car refurbishment and sales business is likely the best use of the site, it won’t promote employment-generating activities like the planned Celadon corporate headquarters would have, Dale said.

All but two of the members of the plan commission present at Tuesday’s meeting voted to pass along a positive recommendation; Bill Bolander and Dan Craig voted against the measure.

“I just don’t like it,” Bolander remarked.

Barbara Olin, a Greenfield resident, expressed concerns about the business during the plan commission meeting. Olin and several family members own property to the west of the project’s borders, and she had several questions about the plans.

She was concerned not only about how long the used cars would sit on the lot but also who would take responsibility for maintaining the grassy areas. She said she reached out to county officials last year after grass and weeds along the borders of the site and retention ponds were allowed to grow in an unsightly manner.

After the meeting, Olin said if the plans agreed upon are followed, she’ll be pleased to call Carvana her neighbor.

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Rorye Hatcher is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at ​317-477-3211 or rhatcher@greenfieldreporter.com.