Wary officials seek answers on warehouse plan

Exeter Property Group wants to develop a 523,260-square-foot warehouse at the northeast corner of county roads 300N and 400W in Hancock County. (Submitted image)

HANCOCK COUNTY — Officials want the developers behind a warehouse proposal to determine more details about the project and meet with opposing neighbors before determining whether to support the development.

North Kansas City-based Logistics Realty Capital and Minneapolis-based Hennepin Industrial want to develop two warehouses on about 70 acres just south of County Road 200N between Buck Creek Road and County Road 800W. One of the buildings would be 575,000 square feet and the other 300,000 square feet. The development would be speculative, meaning without occupants yet secured.

The developers submitted an application for a tax abatement for the project for the Hancock County Council’s consideration, but the council is waiting for the Hancock County Board of Commissioners’ blessing before putting it to a vote.

Both developers discussed the project with the commissioners recently; the officials indicated there’s still plenty more to do before they’d be willing to entertain talks on the tax break.

Marc Huber, a Hancock County commissioner, noted one of the outstanding issues is the substantial opposition to the project from Marion County residents who live just to the west of the site.

“It’s just kind of out of order,” Huber told the developers. “That’s the frustrating part. We’re the ones that get the calls. You want the project; well you guys need to go out there and solve the problems, and then bring us something. I don’t need to be solving your problems.”

Too many unanswered questions remain, he continued, like building height and details on semitrailer parking. He doesn’t want the county to approve projects before specifics like that are determined.

“I’m over that,” Huber said. “We need questions answered so we can make decisions.”

Cameron Duff of Logistics Realty Capital and Ben Applebaum of Hennepin Industrial said the project came with significant challenges that needed to be resolved before knowing it was even viable.

The developers are proposing a retention pond on the western border of the site along with berms and trees to help screen the development. They said they want to meet with area residents, prepare a list of their requests and present it to the commissioners to talk through ones they may be able to incorporate.

“We know that there’s opposition, we know that there are people that aren’t happy about it, and we get it and we understand it,” Applebaum said.

Comments made by those who live near the site and their representatives signify compromise may not come easy.

Shani and Tim Williams own Morgan Acres of Indy, an event venue just to the west of where the industrial warehouses are proposed.

“Our preference is that it doesn’t happen at all, with this kind of construction.” Shani Williams said.

She added she understands the land eyed for the warehouses is zoned industrial, but that businesses with less intense impacts like Foamcraft and others in the area would be far more appropriate so close to residential neighborhoods.

“Then we wouldn’t be having any issues here, because those are reasonable, those have been anticipated, that’s appropriate for the community and for the neighborhood,” she said.

Tim Williams said if Hancock County officials end up approving the proposal, he hopes the effects on their business can be mitigated as much as possible.

“Hopefully if it goes forward, we can work some things through with Logistics Realty Capital and try to make this a little bit easier transition and as little impact as we can have on our venue,” he said.

La Keisha Jackson, who represents the Williamses on the Indianapolis-Marion County City-County Council, said buildings like the kind being proposed should be set back at least a half-mile from properties like Morgan Acres and residences.

“Developers are in business to make money, and we want them to make money, but compromise with our residents and the future of their legacy, because their homes they can’t pick up and move,” Jackson said. “But before the development goes down, there can be compromise there.”

State Sen. Jean Breaux, D-Indianapolis, who also represents a district in which the Williamses live and work, addressed the Hancock County commissioners as well.

“We want the businesses to come in, we want the jobs and the good-paying jobs, and you have a lot of great industry here in Hancock County, but it is finding the balance between what is good for the community, and environment, and what’s good for the residents and those that have to live next to or near this construction,” Breaux said.

To give the developers more time to hone their proposal and meet with residents, the commissioners continued the matter to their Nov. 2 meeting, which starts at 8 a.m. in the Hancock County Annex, 111 American Legion Place, Greenfield.