FORTVILLE – A slim majority of town officials supported measures for a two-building apartment development after hearing from a vocal group of opponents.
Indianapolis-based Hudson Investing wants to develop two 40-unit apartment buildings on about 4 acres just west of Ridgeview Apartments located at 550-801 N. School St., which the firm also owns. Called Ridgeview West, the new buildings are planned to house one-, two- and three-bedroom market-rate apartments with monthly rents estimated to range from about $1,200 to $1,800. The buildings are planned to be two stories tall on their ends and three in their centers. Main Street currently dead-ends just to the north and south of the site, leaving a gap that will be connected as a part of the development.
Fortville Town Council voted 3-2 earlier this week in favor of rezoning the site to a designation that would allow the development, with Becky Davis, Tonya Davis and Fritz Fentz voting in favor and Robert Holland and Libby Wyatt voting against. It followed a tie vote among the council resulting from not enough officials present at a meeting earlier this summer.
The decision included removing a condition Hudson Investing initially proposed of residing the existing Ridgeview Apartments. Kent Ritter, CEO of the firm, estimates that cost at about $560,000, a figure that would render his overall plans financially infeasible.
Town council members also supported, by the same vote breakdown, a $2 million, 20-year tax increment financing bond to help fund the project by allowing taxes generated by the development to go toward paying off the debt. Ritter estimates the town will still receive over $830,000 in property taxes from the buildings throughout the bond period. If the buildings’ assessed values end up being lower than projected and don’t generate enough taxes to cover bond payments, Hudson Investing is responsible for making up the shortfall.
Officials’ votes followed comments critical of the proposal from over a dozen attendees at the recent council meeting. Many of the remarks were met with applause from much of the packed room at the Fortville Community Center.
Most of the opponents indicated they live south of the site or north of it in the Timber Ridge neighborhood. Their concerns included three-story apartment buildings not fitting in with the area’s character of mainly single-family homes to the north and south. They expressed a desire to see the buildings go in a different location and reserve the site in question for single-family homes. Traffic congestion resulting from the additional residents and extending Main Street was also on their minds, as well as a loss of solitude and fears of crime and decreased home values.
“You’re completely changing the character of that entire part of town,” LindaMarie Hanson told the council. “We are quiet, residential streets.”
Lynn Smith agreed.
“I don’t want our little one-horse town to change,” she said. “I understand things happen, life moves on, changes happen, but change for the sake of change just isn’t a good idea.”
Sherry Lambert submitted a petition claiming to have over 200 signatures against the project.
Nick Sartor said he welcomes connecting Main Street to improve the town’s walk-ability, “but not at the expense of” the apartment buildings.
Heather Loy, whose parents developed the original Ridgeview Apartments, spoke as well.
“I know the struggles that my parents went through to build the apartments,” she said. “They didn’t get all the tax abatements, they didn’t get all of the benefits that this company is asking for. They had to work their butt off and work with the town to try to make it better. Their vision was never to build tons of apartments.”
Town council members who voted in favor of the development and even those in opposition agreed on the dearth of market-rate rental opportunities locally.
“There is a need for apartments in Fortville,” Fentz said.
Becky Davis said she’s pleased with the design for the buildings, adding they will offer another housing option.
“I like the apartments, I think they look great,” she said, adding she feels connecting Main Street in that area has been a longstanding intention of the town. “They’re market-rate. I don’t think we need any more low-income housing in Fortville. I think there will be enough of that. … This will give the opportunity for the younger generation to come to town that doesn’t want to buy.”
In her explanation of her support, Tonya Davis said it’s important to respect the site owner’s right to sell and referred to a reported waiting list at the existing Ridgeview Apartments. She added she doesn’t find it realistic to expect single-family homes on the 4-acre site, adding it likely wouldn’t accommodate enough of those kinds of dwellings to be worthwhile for a developer.
Hudson Investing backing out of residing the existing buildings doesn’t bother her.
“I don’t think it should’ve ever been done in the first place,” she said of making it a condition, “because that project has nothing to do with this project right here.”
It was part of the reason for the nay vote from Holland, however, who said Hudson Investing’s request that it be removed because of cost leaves him with concerns over the firm’s liquidity. A 20-year bond period is too long, he continued, pointing to a precedent of 15-year ones the town has approved in the past.
While Holland feels single-family homes would be more appropriate at the site, he does think the apartment buildings will look nice.
“Maybe in a different area it would make a little more sense, but not here,” he said.
Wyatt’s nay vote came with a sense of reluctance as she weighed the needs of the town with the sentiments of constituents amid the debate, which grew tense at times.
“We are good neighbors,” Wyatt said. “We’re not seeing it today because we’re yelling at each other and we’re arguing about our opinions, but why wouldn’t we want to share our passion and our love for our community with new people that are going to move into town? Just to assume that they’re going to drive fast, do drugs and tear up everything is unfair.”
Ritter anticipates construction to start in spring 2023 and for the development to finish in 2025.