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Town declines special permission for sewer system at new Ricker's

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NEW PALESTINE — While plans to develop a gas station and convenience store at the southwest corner of U.S. 52 and CR 600W are still a go for now, the New Palestine Town Council has declined to give the developers special treatment concerning the installation of a sewer system.

Ricker Oil Co. wants to build a store at the corner. While company chairman Jay Ricker said he would know more in 30 days about whether the firm will move forward with the project, the town’s decision could put an end to the plans.

Still, town officials said they made the right call.   

New Palestine town manager Dave Book informed the council Ricker was looking to save expenses on the development of the site by installing a less expensive grinder station and force main to connect the town’s sewers rather than to install a gravity sewer – which has been approved – through the sewer used by Marsh Supermarket across CR 600W.   

“When it came down to Ricker’s looking at the cost, it was prohibitive for them to go ahead with the project because of getting the facilities on site,” Book said.

Before declining the company’s request, council President Larry Jonas asked Book how approving Ricker’s request might affect further development in the area along U.S. 52 near CR 600W.

Book said Ricker would have to install a lift station and sewer near an easement, and that could create future complications. However, Book said the easement would still allow the town to install other gravity sewer lines through the area for future developments.

He advised the council to base its decision on what was best for the town utility.

After much discussion, the three council members – Jonas, Jan Jarson and Clint Bledsoe – declined to give Ricker what he wanted.

“For some reason, I would anticipate as business people they would know what the price is going to be before they came out here,” Jonas said.

Book said his understanding is developers were given pre- and post-engineering figures that changed drastically, causing company officials to have second thoughts about the sewer installation costs.

Still, Bledsoe said there was no way the council could give one business developer special permission without setting a precedent.

“We’re not in the business of helping businesses,” Bledsoe said. “We want to attract business, but a business ought to be able to stand alone.”  

Book said he didn’t think the town’s sewer cost would be the deciding factor as to whether Ricker proceeds with its plans to build the convenience store/gas station.

“It might be one of the factors,” Book said.

Ricker said he was unaware of the council’s decision and couldn’t fully comment on whether his company would continue to move forward.

“I don’t know all the details just yet,” Ricker said. “I expect to know more in 30 days.”    

The Hancock County Commissioners agreed to zoning changes in August 2013 so plans for construction could move forward.

At the time, Commissioners President Derek Towle said he thought the store was the right business for the corner of U.S. 52 and CR 600W.

Ricker Oil Co. has its headquarters in Anderson and has 50 stores, according to its website.

The project came after Trevor Lloyd-Jones, on behalf of Elksheart Reality, LLC Plaza Utilities and New Palestine Plaza, sought a zoning change for 8.49 acres at the corner that would allow multiple business and professional uses.

The Hancock County Commissioners voted 2-1 in August to change zoning on the southwest corner of U.S. 52 and CR 600W with plans for a Ricker store on 1.7 acres of the property.

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