3 more warehouses eyed

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Indianapolis-based i3 Investors wants to develop three warehouses north of Interstate 70 flanking CR 500W in Hancock County.

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HANCOCK COUNTY — A developer wants to bring three more warehouses to the western part of the county totaling over 1 million square feet.

To achieve its vision, the firm is asking the county to rezone one of the last remaining pockets of agricultural land in a sea of industrial ground east of Mt. Comfort Road and north of Interstate 70.

Several nearby residents, including those with land under contract with the developer, oppose the proposal.

County planning authorities want more insight from the county’s highway engineer before determining a recommendation, after which the county board of commissioners will decide on the rezone.

Indianapolis-based i3 Investors is requesting that the county rezone a little over 40 acres of an undeveloped farm field at the northeast corner of I-70 and CR 500W from an agricultural designation to an industrial one. That would accommodate the 562,000-square-foot distribution-logistics facility the developer wants to build on speculation, meaning without any occupants yet secured.

The developer also has several parcels to the west of the site under contract that already have an industrial zoning designation, where two more warehouses are envisioned spanning over 250,000 and over 235,000 square feet, respectively.

Robert Anderson, a lawyer with Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath’s Indianapolis office representing i3 Investors, pointed to the location’s proximity to major transportation routes like I-70 and Mt. Comfort Road along with the Indianapolis Regional Airport.

“It really just works for this site,” Anderson said at a county plan commission meeting earlier this week.

He added i3 Investors is in talks with John Jessup, president of the Hancock County Board of Commissioners, over an economic development package that would address how the developer would contribute to improving CR 500W.

“We know the road’s too narrow,” Anderson said. “It’s got to be widened. We could put in acceleration, deceleration lanes, those sorts of things, whatever the county decides, but any sort of funds that would come from that economic development package would be completely earmarked to making that road safer for the entire community.”

Anderson also said i3 Investors would want the road improved before the buildings were completed in order to attract tenants.

The developer would follow the county’s landscaping rules, Anderson continued, adding i3 would go above and beyond by having a 6-foot-tall mound with a 6-foot-tall fence on the site’s north side to provide a buffer for the residences to the north.

Bill Spalding, a member of the county’s plan commission and board of commissioners, is concerned about the speculative nature of the proposed development and hopes wages would be higher than many of the other warehouse positions in the western part of the county.

“I think we have enough of the $15-an-hour positions,” Spalding told Anderson at the plan commission meeting. “I really won’t consider anything else unless you start at 25 or better.”

Mike Dale, executive director of the Hancock County Area Plan Commission, gave the rezone request a favorable recommendation but said he has concerns over CR 500W being able to handle the heavy traffic the development would bring. He added he’s also concerned about the visual impact the project would have on nearby residents.

Richard and Leah Lederman, who own and live on land i3 Investors has under contract near the site where parking is envisioned, oppose the developer’s plans. Leah Lederman told plan commission members that officials have prioritized development over the well-being of residents who live in the western part of the county.

“I feel that Hancock County is biting off more than it can chew, and we are being spit out,” she said. “I don’t want the legacy to be an overabundance of dubiously occupied storage facilities.”

Larry Sedam, who also lives in the area, shared similar concerns.

“We’re not taking care of the people that have taken care of this county for generations,” he said, adding the county is instead taking care of developers. “Is that what we really want? These people have taken care of us, and you’re leaving them stranded. Please stop this. Just stop it.”

The plan commission voted unanimously to continue the matter to next month to provide time to hear from Gary Pool, Hancock County engineer, and get his thoughts on how CR 500W and its intersection with CR 300N would need to be improved to handle the development.

“I have serious concerns about the infrastructure piece, and I would really feel more comfortable if we got to hear from Gary Pool specifically about that,” said Renee Oldham, a plan commission member.

Pool told the Daily Reporter that if i3’s development moves forward, he doesn’t think CR 500W would need to be widened, but that he’d require it to be rebuilt to handle the commercial traffic. He added more study needs to be done into the intersection at CR 300N, but that it would require turn lanes at the least and possibly a traffic circle.