A traffic study is being considered by an Indianapolis developer who has proposed building more than 300 single-family homes northwest of Columbus after neighbors raised concerns about the project increasing traffic congestion.
Arbor Investments wants the city to annex 151 acres in Columbus Township for a proposed subdivision, Abbey Place, between Indianapolis Road and Interstate 65 near the Princeton Park subdivision.
The company, which brought its plans last week to the Columbus Plan Commission, is seeking to develop 312 lots as part of the project, which includes a 20-acre park and a landscape buffer along I-65.
The proposed development also brought more than 40 people to Columbus City Hall, many of whom said they feared that traffic problems would worsen if the project were developed.
Columbus resident Nancy Burchfield, who lives in the Tudor addition neighborhood located near Indianapolis Road, was one of more than a dozen people who spoke during the Abbey Place public comment portion of the meeting, which lasted for more than three hours.
She said the proposed development by Arbor, a land development company with ties to builder Arbor Homes, prompted her to start a petition with a neighbor, Belinda Denver. The petition opposes 21 acres of the property being rezoned to industrial from its current residential designation.
Objections to a proposed lengthening of County Road 150W is also cited in the petition, claiming the project would increase traffic and noise and also create safety issues for children in the area.
Burchfield said she didn’t want to see the project move forward and said that she often has to wait now on Indianapolis Road due to other drivers coming off U.S. 31.
“More houses means a lot more traffic back there. We’d rather leave it like it is,” Burchfield said.
As part of the project, Arbor Investments is also seeking to rezone a portion of the property consisting of nearly 97 acres from residential single-family 2, or RS2, to residential single-family 3, or RS3.
The Arbor proposal is one of the biggest in Columbus since Shadow Creek Farms was approved in 1999 on 298 acres south of County Road 200S and east of Interstate 65. The subdivision, developed by Beazer Homes, has about 900 lots.
Paul Claire, developer of the Arbor project, told commission members that his company plans to build Abbey Place in phases. In addition, three access points onto County Road 200 West on the east portion of the development would be made, while two additional access points onto County Road 200 West from the west portion would be available as well.
Commission member Julie Abedian said the community is struggling on how to deal with an expected increase in train traffic as early as next year.
CSX trains are projected to increase the current wait time at the State Route 46 crossing of about 13 minutes for eastbound traffic to about 20 minutes in 2018. Wait times there are expected to grow to 40-minute delays by 2036 as eight trains currently going through the city each day increase to 22 — and longer trains at that.
Such projections worry homeowners such as Burchfield, whose home is located less than a half mile from train tracks.
“I think another time and another set of circumstances, this traffic issue wouldn’t be as complicated as it is,” Abedian said.
Claire said he understood concerns cited by residents about traffic, describing the issue as something he takes seriously. Claire said he would be willing to consider a traffic study, but would first need to determine how much it would cost.
If the traffic study is performed, the city would work in conjunction with an engineering firm hired by Claire, said Dave Hayward, executive director of public works/city engineer.
The study, which would be paid by the developer, would analyze existing and future traffic in the area and whether any improvements can be made, he said.
Abedian said she supports a traffic study, adding that it would help residents understand the projected impact.
The proposal comes back to the plan commission at 4 p.m. Dec. 14 in Columbus City Hall.
“Can it be done in a month?” Claire said of the traffic study. “I don’t know.”
The project will be reconsidered by the plan commission because its 4-3 vote on the annexation and zoning requests fell short of the necessary six votes in favor.
If approved by the plan commission, the proposal would then go to the Columbus City Council.
Indianapolis-based Arbor Homes began building in 1994 and has constructed more than 10,000 new homes for people in central Indiana over the past 22 years. The firm says it builds more homes in Indiana than any other home builder based on the number of housing permits issued in the state.
Besides Columbus, Arbor Homes currently builds in Indianapolis, Greenwood, Lafayette, Avon, Camby, Franklin, Greenfield, Plainfield, Brownsburg, Westfield, Marion, Shelbyville, Noblesville, Fortville and Kokomo.
For more information on the company, visit its website at yourarborhome.com
The Columbus Plan Commission will revisit the Abbey Place annexation and rezoning requests at 4 p.m. Dec. 14 in Columbus City Hall.