NEW PALESTINE — Farmland in the southern part of the county — as it has in many other places — has become a prime target for developers.
A developer has expressed a strong interest in purchasing 118 acres, currently being farmed, on the northwest corner of County Roads 500W and 300S, near the new roundabout. The plan is to build a subdivision of 353 homes.
The preliminary site plan for the subdivision, to be called Providence, features 353 lots set off County Road 500W north of County Road 300S.
While the property is just outside New Palestine town’s boundaries and therefore under the county’s jurisdiction, representatives for the developer wanted to let town officials know about their plans. The town will be called upon to provide sewer service to the area.
Melissa Garrard, the entitlements manager for Forestar Group, a national real estate company, spoke to the town council during a recent meeting and highlighted several aspects of the development, tentatively called Providence, including eight open-space green areas. One will be near the roundabout.
“We’ll put a big pond there, so you’ll have a great view from the roundabout as you’re driving by there,” Garrard said.
The main entrance would be north of the roundabout on 500W. Traffic entering the neighborhood would negotiate a large traffic circle just inside the entrance with streets leading into the neighborhood in three directions. Garrard said the builder is open to getting feedback from the town on amenities when adding things like a walking trail and a park.
In the northwest corner of the property, which backs up to the campus of New Palestine Intermediate School on County Road 200S, early plans call for a trail that would link to the school property if that is something the community and school officials want.
Garrard said the developer plans to have a buffer around the subdivision, giving it an identity.
Part of the county’s approval will have to include a zoning change to allow for more than one home per acre. Garrard noted the county’s comprehensive plan calls for residential development in the area, so they are hopeful for a positive outcome when they approach county officials.
While she said the developers would be interested in having the property annexed into the town, it would be a long process. She said the developer would like a letter from town officials stating the property should be annexed into town as soon as it could be.
“This is in the very early stages of development,” Garrard said. “We have not filed anything with Hancock County just yet.”
A presentation to the county is expected to come as soon.
Town Councilman Chris Lytle asked Garrard just how committed Forestar is to adding 353 new homes. He said that would be a burden on the town’s sewer system, which the town is preparing to expand.
“That’s such a huge number of houses,” Lytle said. “I’m not sure if we’re going to be able to man that.”
Garrard suggested the project would take five to seven years to complete.
“It’s not going to happen all at once,” Garrard said.
She also stated they’d have to have an official letter from the wastewater plant stating it can handle the subdivision wastewater addition before they close on purchasing the land.
Councilwoman Angie Fahrnow said she, too, was concerned about the large number of homes bringing in more traffic to the area which is bounded on all sides by two-lane county roads.
“Just looking at the plans, it shoots out onto County Road 500W, and one of the other entrances is over by the intermediate school (200S), and that’s a small, narrow road,” Fahrnow said.
Officials noted the subdivision would also have an entrance on 300S, giving drivers several options so they will not create a bottle neck.
As for the price range on homes, Garrard said she hopes to have more on that and the official lot sizes at the next meeting she attends. A slide in a presentation shown to the council indicates 136 lots would be 64-by-125 feet and 217 lots would be 52-by-120 feet.
“I do know it will not be low-income housing, and I cannot imagine anything costing less than $300,000,” Garrard said.
Forestar is a residential lot development company with operations in 56 markets in 23 states. It is a majority-owned subsidiary of D.R. Horton, Inc., which has built many homes in Hancock County over the past several years.