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Zoning vote upsets neighbors

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Property owners west of the proposed rezoning (dotted lines) say it will hurt property values. (Kyle Lewis/Daily Reporter graphic)
Property owners west of the proposed rezoning (dotted lines) say it will hurt property values. (Kyle Lewis/Daily Reporter graphic)

HANCOCK COUNTY — Deemed among the best-suited properties in the county for development, 80 acres of farmland west of University Loft Co. will be recommended for a zoning change.

Nearby homeowners, however, object to further development in the area along Interstate 70 west of Greenfield. They fear industrial expansion will ruin the quiet rural environment near their homes.

The rectangular parcel, situated between CR 300N and I-70, lies immediately west of University Loft Co.’s plant. It is owned by the Townsend Limited Partnership, which was seeking a zoning change from agricultural to Light Industrial Business Park.

“This part of Hancock County is subject to much interest for industrial development, and the land must be ready,” said Greenfield attorney Ronald Pritzke, who represented the Townsend family before the Hancock County Area Plan Commission Tuesday night.

There are no active prospects looking to develop the parcel, “but the family wants to get started,” Pritzke said. “They know a potential user won’t wait 60 to 90 days to go through the zoning process.”

The Light Industrial Business Park designation would allow commercial enterprises such as business parks, light assembly and distribution facilities.

“This site is as close to being as perfect for a light industrial site than any other site we have (in the county),” said land planner Harold Gibson on behalf of the landowner.

The existence of infrastructure and utilities on or at the property, its flat, open topography and access and visibility to I-70 make the parcel a prime location for development, proponents said.

“We’ve done 240 requests for information, and 40 percent of them are looking for open land,” said Skip Kuker, executive director of the Hancock Economic Development Council. “The location is perfect with visibility off I-70 and 5,000 cars a day going by.”

Because the site abuts a residential area, county land plans require stringent buffer requirements that include a 25-foot setback, a three-foot mound, large trees at 50-foot intervals and shrubbery.

Though recommending approval of the request, county planners suggested imposing several use and design restrictions to protect the nearby homes.

“Industry should be incorporated into the county with respect for homeowners,” said county planning director Mike Dale. “The homeowners were there first and have invested in their property for decades. We’d like to see this project happen but with the appropriate measures to protect adjoining land users.”

Despite the land’s attributes and the existence of industrial or light industrial property throughout that area, homeowners abutting the west boundary of the property say the zoning change will harm the quality and value of their homes and property.

“I am very much opposed to rezoning this,” said Lisa Bayne, whose back yard overlooks the Townsend land. “We purchased our property decades ago. We enjoy a rural environment, and we’ve invested heavily in this property. We have a wetland behind our property, and the thought of staring across a park-like setting to idling loading docks is very offensive to me.”

Bruce Delond, who is also among the 15 homeowners to the west of the proposed development site, said he is concerned that the residential pocket could ultimately be locked in on all sides by commercial development if the requested land is added to the current zoning scheme.

“We’re going to be trapped in that hole,” Delond said.

Landowners’ representatives said the development intends to be “good neighbors” to the adjoining homeowners with several light, 10- to 15-acre projects using the parcel.

“I don’t see this site as one that fills up with uses like (University Loft Co.),” Gibson said.

The commission approved the request with a 7-0 vote, passing its advisory recommendation to county commissioners for final action. Commission members Jeannine Gray and Bill Bolander were absent from Tuesday’s meeting.

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