Town OKs apartment building change, denies others

Fortville officials voted to deny a developer’s request to change plans for a proposed apartment building to have a pitched roof, preserving its originally intended flat roof design. Submitted image

FORTVILLE – Town officials granted one of a developer’s requests for significant changes to a proposed apartment building and rejected two others.

The 50-unit apartment building planned for 215 S. Madison St. in Fortville will be able to have a ground-level stormwater basin as opposed to the initially intended underground storage. The four-story structure won’t be allowed to go from a flat roof to a pitched one, however, nor will a change of siding material the developer requested be allowed.

MVAH Holding LLC, a subsidiary of MVAH Partners located in West Chester Township, Ohio, sought the changes due to skyrocketing costs and long wait times for construction materials brought on by the economic challenges spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fortville Town Council voted 4-1 Monday night to allow the stormwater storage change with Tonya Davis, Fritz Fentz, Robert Holland and Libby Wyatt voting in favor and Becky Davis voting against.

The decision aligns with the recommendation the Fortville Advisory Plan Commission issued last month.

Plans approved in 2020 for the apartment building, named Madison Lofts, call for a flat roof with a rubber membrane. MVAH was hoping to change to a pitched roof, allowing for an estimated savings of $150,000 to $175,000.

The developer hoped for further savings by using CraneBoard siding, which is less expensive than the initially planned fiber cement siding.

But the town held firm on those two parts of the plan.

Holland said it’s important to heed the town plan commission’s guidance.

“We want to support the plan commission when we can,” he said. “With the standards we approved, it will be a nice-looking building.”

And one that will be in high demand, he added.

“I think it will provide a need in the community for workforce housing at the county’s area median income rate,” Holland said.

MVAH received $1 million in tax credits from the state of Indiana last year for the firm to sell to help fund the development. The award is part of Fortville, Greenfield and Hancock County’s inclusion in the state’s Stellar Communities program, which provides funds and funding opportunities for community improvement projects.

Per the terms of the state’s tax credit award program, Madison Lofts’ one- and two-bedroom apartments will be reserved for tenants making between 30% and 80% of area median income. Rents will be reduced based on tenants’ incomes, but not subsidized by government programs.

Pete Schwiegeraht of MVAH Partners said keeping the flat roof will not only increase costs, but also the wait for materials, an important factor to keep in mind when considering the project’s deadline.

“It risks it more,” Schwiegeraht said, noting that the state requires the development to be completed by the end of 2023. “A year ago I would’ve told you these were 12-to-15-month building cycles, now they’re 15-to-18-month building cycles, so we got a couple months here before you start worrying about that end date, and if you got that out there looming over you, it does put some extra risk.”

Bob Ferrell, who lives just outside of Fortville, expressed concerns over the project at Monday’s meeting. He said a spring appears to be on the property, creating a swamp-like area and possibly meriting a wetland designation that would preclude its disturbance. Ferrell also asked if environmental studies had been conducted on the site, adding he worked for a company decades ago that transported chemicals and conducted truck repairs based out of a property nearby.

Schwiegeraht told town council members that environmental studies have been conducted on the property.

“This site has a full clean bill of health,” he said. “We couldn’t, wouldn’t, nor would the state ever let us use the site if that wasn’t the case.”