Annexation approved after months of delays


NEW PALESTINE — After months of delays for various reasons, the Town of New Palestine’s council approved the annexation of 29 acres of land. The vote to bring the property into the town limits opens the door for the development of a new subdivision, something many neighbors near the proposed site had balked at.

The latest housing project expected to materialize is located on about 29 acres on the west side of South 450W. Before the land, owned by the Schildmier family, could be sold to a developer with plans for the subdivision to move forward, the owners had asked town officials to annex the property into town, something they originally brought before town officials in January.

The new development is expected to be called Willow Ridge subdivision with contractors building some 60 to 70 homes in the $400,000 price range.

The 29 acres, which has been used as farmland is near the Sunrise and Bridgewater subdivisions with the Cedar Creek subdivision located to the west making the 29 acres in the middle ideal for more homes, town officials said.

In addition to the 29 acres being adjacent to existing developed areas already annexed into town, the land is also connected to centralized sewer and water facilities and is suited for more home development, officials said.

An introduction of petition for voluntary annexation of the Schildmier land was first discussed back in January but hit multiple road blocks from issues with certified letters and mistakes in paperwork to neighbors who asked town officials to reconsider bringing another subdivision to town.

Chris Wernimont, New Palestine, represented a group called Citizens for Responsible Growth. In a release emailed to the Daily Reporter about the project, he said neighbors had numerous concerns bringing another subdivision into town.

The essence of their letter was neighbors were worried about out of state and foreign investments in U.S. residential real estate although his letter noted residents felt better after hearing from the developer. They also expressed disappointment that the council did not insist upon a performance bond or a bank guarantee to provide for the maintenance of the grounds should the housing market hit a lull like it did in 2008, and they had a concern the development did not meet the town’s comprehensive or fiscal goals.

Mostly though Wernimont noted the group had a problem with what they called “out of control” growth going on all over the Western part of the county saying it was hostile to the quality of life in the area.

In the end council officials felt the subdivision was a good fit for the area and approved the annexation by a vote of 3-0. Council president Bill Niemier, council vice president Clint Bledsoe and council member Brandee Bastin voted in favor of the annexation. Council members Angie Fahrnow and Chris Lytle did not attend the meeting.

In addition to the annexation, a zoning change to a R2 classification was also approved paving the way for the project to move forward.

“There have been a series of meetings for this particular item,” council president Bill Niemier said. “All the legal requirements have been satisfied.”

Niemier noted the request did not have multiple variances and was not looking to modify the town’s requirements in any way and in fact will comply with all of them.

“They’re nice looking homes,” Niemier said. “I certainly hope not every project takes this many meetings.”

Bastin noted she appreciated those who spoke against the annexation and brought up mistakes in the town’s fiscal plan. She called for those mistakes to be fixed as soon as possible.