GREENFIELD — What is, is not or might become a truck stop is causing a considerable amount of discussion and consternation over development at Greenfield’s premier business park.
At first glance, the installation of three diesel pump islands and five fuel pumps at the Speedway station at Progress Park seems like a modest expansion. The store is at 110 Opportunity Parkway, at the entrance to Progress Park and just north of Elanco’s world headquarters.
But nearby residents and officials with the animal health division of Eli Lilly and Co. say the installation is anything but modest. They are raising concerns about traffic congestion, safety and aesthetics. They worry that the station will attract more truck traffic off Interstate 70 to a setting decidedly inappropriate for it.
The issue is pitting the county’s most important employer and its neighbors against city zoning rules that say the additional equipment at the store is OK.
The city issued a permit for the islands in November 2013 without requiring Speedway to have a development plan reviewed by the city advisory plan commission.
City planners said constructing additional fuel lanes amounted to “accessory use” at the property and was therefore appropriate.
“It was an accessory use to a use that was already in place – the sale of diesel fuel,” said Greenfield planning director Joanie Fitzwater.
Additionally, the sale of diesel fuel is a permitted use under the city’s Planned Business zoning designation at the site.
However, once the pumps were in, residents in nearby Cranberry Lake Estates and officials with Elanco objected. They argue that large semi-trailer trucks do not comport with the aesthetic of a high-end business park and research campus or residential areas.
“I think they believe it’s an intensifying of a use that’s not necessary or justified. There are no alternative benefits to the community that are not already existing there at the present time,” said Zionsville attorney Michael Andreoli, who represents Elanco/Eli Lilly.
Andreoli said Elanco and other developers are trying to attract enterprises for a world-class business and industrial park facility near the location, and adding capacity for diesel fueling lanes and trucks at the station is not conducive to that effort.
The site lies in a city “corridor overlay district,” which imposes additional development standards for traffic management and aesthetic design characteristics.
“One of the requirements in the corridor overlay is that (development) would benefit or foster future development, and not in any way does this satisfy that criteria,” Andreoli said.
“Given all that’s happening there, we’re just scratching our heads as to why that (permit) would be granted in view of what’s going on behind Elanco’s campus,” he said.
In January, the state’s Office of Community and Rural Affairs, along with the Hancock Economic Development Council, announced that 225 acres spread across four parcels in Progress Park near Elanco’s campus had received a “shovel-ready silver” site designation, putting the land on the fast track for development.
City officials point out that once that land is developed, the area will see a significant uptick in commercial truck traffic generated by the additional business activity; that increase would be driven by development and not the additional fuel pumps at the Speedway station.
“The Speedway is located at (Ind.) 9 and (Interstate) 70,” Fitzwater said. “We’ve planned for traffic in that area.
“We felt that the gas station provided services for the industrial and technological users there,” Fitzwater said. “It was a logical land use progression.”
Elanco, however, appealed the city’s issuance of the permit, maintaining that a development plan should have been filed.
Speedway submitted a plan for the plan commission’s review; however, at a special June 16 meeting, the commission deadlocked on a 4-4 vote without commission member Gary McDaniel, who missed the meeting because of health reasons.
The issue was tabled and will come back to the commission for another vote on July 14.
In February, Speedway filed a restrictive covenant promising not to use the station as a “truck stop” or “truck freight terminal,” defined as a facility offering dedicated semi-trailer parking, showers, a full-service restaurant and freight-switching accommodations.
City records show that a truck plaza was specifically rejected in 1999.
Some people are skeptical.
“The site is too small is the bottom line,” said Cranberry Lake Estates resident Kris Jones. “It looks great on paper, but when you put it into practice, it’s just not working.”
Jones said he has seen trucks parked at the station on several occasions.
“Sometimes there’s nothing there, but the other day I saw two (semi-trailer) trucks parked there and three dump trucks fueling,” he said.
Jones said residents are concerned about traffic congestion on Ind. 9, safety and quality-of-life issues. To date, some 42 signatures have been gathered on the neighborhood’s Facebook page petitioning against the pumps.
The city, however, maintains that Speedway’s additional fuel lanes on Opportunity Parkway do not make it a truck stop such as the plazas at the Mt. Comfort Road and Ind. 109 interchanges at I-70.
“This is a fueling station,” Fitzwater said.