HANCOCK COUNTY – A developer is proposing another rental home community in the county, this time in Buck Creek Township.
AMH Development, the new-construction arm of real estate investment trust American Homes 4 Rent, wants to bring 144 single-family rental homes to over 57 acres near the southwest corner of CR 700W and CR 500N.
The firm is pursuing a similar project near Greenfield on a site it hopes to annex into the city.
Named Turner Farms after the land’s current owner, the latest proposed community’s 24 lots adjacent to the single-family homes surrounding the site would be 90 by 160 feet. The other 120 lots would be 65 by 115 feet.
Home sizes would range from 1,800 to 2,700 square feet with three to five bedrooms. The average rent would be $2,100 per month. Exterior maintenance would be provided and home interiors would be equipped with appliances. The proposal also calls for an amenity center estimated at $1.75 million that would include a pool and playground.
The site is made up of farmland and woods and has a residential zoning designation. AMH Development is asking county officials to rezone it to a planned unit development, which would establish specific development standards for the project. The firm plans to preserve much of the woods.
As a rental community, Turner Farms would be taxed as a commercial property, which would have a 2% cap as opposed to Indiana’s 1% cap on homesteads.
Mark Connor, director of land acquisition for AMH Development, said at a Hancock County Area Plan Commission meeting earlier this month that the firm has done about 140 build-for-rent neighborhoods across the country since starting in 2017.
Renee Oldham, a plan commission member, asked what the future of Turner Farms’ homes would be if AMH Development ever went out of business.
Connor said that would be unlikely, adding the firm has a market value of $18 billion and is the fourth largest home-builder by volume in the country behind Lennar, D.R. Horton and Pulte Homes.
Oldham, also executive director of the Mt. Vernon Education Foundation, said she’s concerned about resident transience in a rental community and the impact it could have on the county’s schools.
Connor said the company’s minimum leases are one year and that most tenants remain three to five years. He pointed to Wall Street Journal coverage reporting American homeowners have stayed six to seven years on average in newly built houses over the past decade.
“So the delta between our three to five in our homes is not massively different from what’s going on in the for-sale world,” he said.
Several Hancock County residents expressed concerns at the meeting, including over the potential development’s impact on nearby property values, traffic and whether it would result in existing residents with wells and septic systems having to hook onto water and sewer utilities.
Gregg Morelock, the plan commission’s lawyer, said the area is under Aqua Indiana’s territory and that Indiana law states residences within 300 feet of a sewer main can be required to hook on if a provider wishes. Such a requirement does not exist for water service, however.
Todd Lohman, a licensed civil engineer who works in the building, design and construction industry and who lives near the site, said he applauds the attempt to support affordable housing.
“But I have not worked with any planner or urban planner who would put high-density rental property with no frontage in the backyards of agricultural and residential residents,” he added. “This may be a great community, but this is the wrong location for it.”
Sandra Hudson, who also lives nearby, echoed concerns about the proposal’s potential impact on schools.
“I don’t object to a traditional housing development back there, but I do question having an entire rental community,” she said.
The plan commission voted unanimously to continue consideration until its October meeting in order to have time to work out several aspects of the proposal. Bill Spalding, a commission member and member of the Hancock County Board of Commissioners – which would have the final say on the rezone – is considering visiting the closest completed AMH Development rental community to Hancock County in Nashville, Tennessee.
Plan commission members also want to determine the terms of a letter of credit AMH Development would have to provide that the county could draw from if the community’s maintenance was ever deficient. The firm is working on a similar measure with Greenfield officials for its proposal for the city.
Additionally, county planning officials want to establish requirements regarding the relationships of tenants in order to prevent large numbers of unrelated people from living in one of the proposed rental homes. They want to require that the site be platted as one lot to prevent homes from being sold off piecemeal as well.
The proposal is one of at least three rental home communities currently up for consideration in Hancock County. Along with Turner Farms and AMH Development’s Greenfield proposal, Hartman Capital wants to develop one near McCordsville and annex it into town.
If you go
What: Hancock County Area Plan Commission meeting
When: 6:30 p.m. Oct. 25
Where: Hancock County Courthouse Annex, 111 American Legion Place, Greenfield
Why: The commission will consider zoning for a proposed rental home community
Turner Farms at a glance
57.7 acres near southwest corner of CR 500N and CR 700W
144 single-family rental homes
Home sizes 1,800 to 2,700 square feet
Three to five bedrooms
$2,100 average monthly rent
No vinyl siding
Stainless steel appliances, luxury vinyl plank flooring, finished garages, granite counter tops
Amenity center, pool, playground
$45 million total project cost estimate
Source: AMH Development