NP planning commission moves forward with $61 million apartment complex project

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Plans for $61 million, high-end apartment complex are moving forward.

NEW PALESTINE — The town’s newly constituted Planning Commission gathered last week to double check and vote on the town’s Redevelopment Commission approval of paperwork for a proposed $61 million high end apartment complex project. The developers are asking for $5 million in bonds. The measure passed by a 5 to 1 vote.

The town’s governing bodies, including the RDC, PC and the town council, are in the process of approving or denying the development of the complex. The proposed project is located in a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) area. The developers, Becovic Management Group of Indiana, say the project hinges on them getting the bonds.

The town’s RDC established the TIF allocation area while the town council will approve or deny $5 million in bonds for the project, attorneys told the PC. The PC, the attorneys said, was tasked with making sure the RDC did what it was supposed to — follow the town’s Economic Development Plan — which was adopted and amended for the project.

In 2020, New Palestine officials approved standards and regulations governing future development across 66 acres of land owned by Hancock Health. That included uses permitted there like a residential development.

The approval by the PC on Aug. 17 comes just a few days after the PC, which town officials said was not put together properly, had voted in a 2-2 tie, stalling the measure.

During the re-vote by the new PC, its president, Rawn Walley, along with PC members Nancy Owens, Raven Smathers, Eric Kropp and Yvonne Jonas, voted in favor of the measure while Angie Fahrnow voted against it. Planning Commission member Brandee Bastin abstained from the vote due to her work association with Hancock Health, the land owner.

Before the PC took an official vote on the proposed apartment complex near the intersection of U.S. 52 and Mt. Comfort Road, Rob Matt of Hancock Health spoke to the commission and told them they would not be supporting a project that wasn’t “world class.” He then asked the PC to support the measure.

“We’ve waited roughly a year for this project to give it a go and in the meantime we’ve turned down offers who won’t build the same product with the amenities that the Becovic project will,” Matt said. “We’re here asking for your support.”

Several members of the community spoke in favor of the project, including Seth Buis, 22, New Palestine. He currently lives with his mother, he said, and noted there are not many places for young professionals to live in the area if they don’t want to purchase a house.

“I have a lot of friends and young people who are thinking of starting families that are being pushed to other areas,” Buis said. “I also think with the location of this, it provides a great opportunity for New Pal’s economy to boost.”

Another county resident, Dale Wagner, who has been against the project, noted he lives near where the new development is proposed. Wagner said he’s settled on the idea the project is going to be built. However, he has concerns about the TIF monies and wondered where the $5 million in bonds was going other than $1 million earmarked for a new lift station.

“That’s really where my objection comes from,” Wagner said. “I’m kind of wondering where the other $4 million is going for … If it is going to be used for infrastructure then I’d understand that.”

Chris Walden, New Palestine, told the PC he recently moved one of his sons into an apartment complex on the north side of Indianapolis because there were no real options for him to live in New Palestine.

“If we’re going to have an option from an apartment complex stance, for me this is the best,” Walden said of the proposed project. “My son is paying $1,800 a month, and would he have rather stayed in New Pal? I think so.”

Council President Bill Niemier, who attended the meeting spoke as a citizen and told the PC, the town’s RDC would be getting an estimated $167,000 from the apartment project if the project with the bonds is officially approved.

“Those funds can be used to build sidewalks … Or maybe we could build a new Town Hall that wasn’t a bank building,” Niemier said.

The town’s attorney Ted Nolting advised the PC before they voted their sole duty was to determine if the resolution and plan submitted to them by the RDC should be approved or disapproved.

Fahrnow questioned PC members before the vote, asking them if they had been able to read the hundreds of pages of documentation surrounding the project.

“Our job is to read through that and answer the questions because we are seven people up here deciding the future of the whole entire town,” she said. “We need to be educated on it before we just blindly pass something.”

In the end, the measure passed and moves onto the Town Council for approval.