Planners give industrial rezone thumbs down

Indianapolis-based GDI Construction is seeking a rezoning from agricultural use to industrial business park for several buildings it wants to develop at the northwest corner of County Roads 300N and 300W in Hancock County. (Submitted image)

HANCOCK COUNTY — Planning officials are recommending that the county reject a developer’s request to rezone land needed for three proposed industrial buildings totaling nearly 2.3 million square feet.

The decision continues a gut check the county’s been having toward the surge of large speculative developments over the past couple years.

While a guiding planning document calls for that very use in the area the developer wants to rezone, leaders and residents aren’t sure roads in the vicinity would be able to handle the extra traffic and have concerns about spreading public safety resources more thinly than they already are.

Indianapolis-based GDI Holdings LLC wants to rezone nearly 200 acres at the northwest corner of County Roads 300N and 300W from agricultural to an industrial business park designation. A conceptual site plan filed with the county shows two buildings over 900,000 square feet and one nearly 450,000 square feet. The developments would be speculative, meaning without occupants yet secured, although a lawyer representing the company said discussions are ongoing with a prospective tenant.

GDI has six other similar developments along the Mt. Comfort Corridor in western Hancock County.

The county’s comprehensive plan envisions industrial zoning for the land GDI seeks to rezone.

While the comprehensive plan envisions future land uses, it does not represent how land is currently zoned, although crossover can exist between envisioned and existing zoning designations.

State law requires the Hancock County Plan Commission to consider the comprehensive plan when making rezoning recommendations. The commission does not have to make recommendations in accordance with the plan, however.

“This project is entirely reasonable with your comprehensive plan,” Briane House, a lawyer with Greenfield-based Pritzke & Davis representing GDI, told the plan commission earlier this week. “It’s consistent with the development that is occurring within the area, and this is a well-established company.”

Indianapolis-based Ambrose Property Group is developing a multi-building logistics park off 300N west and east of 400W, where Amazon leases a fulfillment center. Tsuda USA operates a plant across 300N from the park.

House added GDI is willing to make improvements to County Road 300N as a part of its project.

But plan commission members Wendell Hester, Byron Holden, Michael Long, Tom Nigh, Renee Oldham and Bill Spalding voted in favor of giving the county commissioners an unfavorable recommendation for the rezone. Bill Bolander voted against the unfavorable recommendation.

Holden noted the comprehensive plan is about 15 years old (a $250,000 effort to update it is just getting underway). And even with GDI improving part of County Road 300N, there’s plenty of roadway in the area not yet able to handle the spike in traffic that would result from the development, he said.

“The comp plan is just a guess of what’s going to happen in the future,” Holden said. “And there’s a lot that’s happened since then that we can stop and look at right now. I mean, we’re just being overwhelmed with warehouse buildings, in my opinion. The roads are not improved to meet the demand.”

The site is too far from Mt. Comfort Road for the thoroughfare, which is slated for widening, to be a benefit for the resulting traffic increase, he also said.

“This project ends up right in the middle of everywhere,” Holden said. “So all those trucks and all that traffic is going to come out of there. Not everybody’s going to want to come back to Mt. Comfort Road and to back east.”

Spalding, who’s also a county commissioner, said his opposition stems from a desire for smart growth.

“We cannot outpace our public safety and infrastructure needs,” he said. “And we are there.”

Long said he felt the commission lacked enough knowledge regarding whether roads in the area are or would soon be capable of handling the extra traffic.

“I don’t know how to understand before we make a zoning change — what is our commitment from the developer or from the county that the roads will be improved prior to, or in conjunction with the development of the property?” he said. “And that’s one of the things we don’t ever really have a good handle on when we’re making these decisions.”

Bolander, who also serves on the Hancock County Council, said leaders are making strides with the sheriff’s department on raises and allowing for the hiring of more deputies. He’s also confident future road improvements would be able to keep up with the development and others that may be coming to the area.

“I’d like to see us continue it and then maybe have a presentation from our highway department,” Bolander said of the rezone request.

Residents living near the proposed site shared many of the same concerns as officials, including Brad Romeril.

“I just don’t think that the infrastructure is ready,” he said.

Brian Jarman agreed.

“Hoping that we will catch up is not a good enough plan,” he added.

The upcoming meeting at which the county commissioners will vote on the rezone has yet to be determined.

[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”At a glance” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

Requested rezone

  • 196.83 acres at northwest corner of County Roads 300N and 300W
  • Agricultural to industrial business park
  • Three spec buildings proposed — two 903,960 square feet, one 466,560 square feet
  • Indianapolis-based GDI Construction

[sc:pullout-text-end][sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”Pull Quote” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

“I mean, we’re just being overwhelmed with warehouse buildings, in my opinion.”

Byron Holden, Hancock County Plan Commission member