Residents are ramping up their fight against a developer’s plans to build more than 300 homes on the northwest edge of Columbus.
Arbor Investments of Indianapolis is seeking approval from 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 developer is also seeking to rezone 97 acres of the property to allow a higher density of homes in the subdivision. The minimum lot size would be lowered to about one-sixth of an acre if the change is approved, while the maximum number of homes per acre would increase from 3.5 to 5, according to the city’s zoning rules.
The Columbus Plan Commission last month sent a favorable recommendation to the Columbus City Council, which will consider the two requests Tuesday.
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The zoning and annexation requests would both have to be approved in two separate meetings by the council for passage, Tuesday and again in June.
Jack Head, vice president of the Princeton Park Homeowners Association, is among neighbors planning to turn out in opposition.
Head, however, suspects the council will approve the requests anyway.
“I think the city wants it for whatever reason,” Head said. “Whatever Arbor has asked for, the city has given them.”
Head said one of his biggest concerns is increased traffic, saying many motorists are already coming off Lowell Road from State Road 46 due to train-crossing congestion in the area. He fears that will worsen if the proposed subdivision is constructed, especially if up to 22 trains a day travel through Columbus as projected starting next year.
Head said he believes traffic volume through Princeton Park subdivision would increase if the Arbor subdivision is built.
Bob Kasting, who has lives in Princeton Park for 17 years and is president of its homeowners association, is also concerned about traffic and plans to attend the council meeting.
Kasting said he doesn’t want residents from the proposed development to use Princeton Park Drive as a way to get to Lowell Road instead of using County Road 200W.
“It’s not right for their development to depend on our streets to make their project viable, to give their residents access to Lowell Road,” Kasting said.
He also said safety needs to be taken into consideration as part of the project.
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.
Prospective Abbey Place neighbors first approached the city in November with their concerns about increased traffic, prompting Arbor developer Paul Claire to agree to conduct a traffic study that was presented to the plan commission in February. However, complaints were lodged by residents about the timing of the study, which was done when Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. students were on winter break.
That led to a second traffic study, with results released last month. Recommendations included having the Indiana Department of Transportation consider installing a traffic signal at Lowell Road and U.S. 31 if a proposed railroad overpass is not constructed at State Road 46 and State Road 11.
In addition, two alternatives for the intersection of County Road 200W and Middle Access Drive — either a two-way stop or a single-lane roundabout — were also recommended.
Columbus Mayor Jim Lienhoop said the neighbors seem to be forgetting it will take as long as six years for the entire proposed subdivision to be built out on the property.
And although the homeowners may not realize it, the developers could go forward with the current zoning, building 10 fewer homes on the acreage to meet requirements, he said.
Opposing industrial zoning
Nancy Burchfield and Melinda Deaver, who live along Paula Drive, went door-to-door in their Tudor Addition subdivision last week seeking signatures on a petition opposing the rezoning of 21 acres near residential housing for industrial use that will also be considered by city council members Tuesday.
The property, on the west side of County Road 150W near Paula Drive in Columbus Township, is used as a farm field and is directly south of the Tudor Addition subdivision. The applicant, identified as the Barbara Puckett Revocable Living Trust, is seeking approval to rezone the property from single-family residential to general industrial to make it available for industrial development.
That rezoning request received an unfavorable recommendation from the Columbus Plan Commission a month ago. Lienhoop said there have been rumblings that the request will be withdrawn before it is heard before the council.
Both homeowners also said they are against the Arbor project because they are concerned about increased traffic congestion in the area.
“They’re not taking into consideration the apartment buildings and businesses that are out here,” Deaver said.
The pair of residents said their attempt to meet with homeowners last week was meant to raise awareness of the meeting and to encourage them to personally contact council members if they aren’t able to attend the meeting.
“The more people that respond that are against it, the more it will have an effect on council’s decision,” Deaver said.
Burchfield and Deaver said they’re concerned about pollution and noise associated with a factory if the land behind their home is rezoned for industrial use. The neighbors planned to reach out to council members in advance of the meeting, they said.
Tight housing market
While the city does not want to inconvenience anyone by adding more housing, Lienhoop said residents must understand that Columbus is one of the most expensive places to live in the state.
Taking into account the effect of supply and demand, the city has only two choices — reduce demand or increase supply, he said.
“Additional housing is something we need,” Lienhoop said.
By the time the additional houses in the subdivision are built in the next six years, substantial improvements to Lowell Road should be completed, he said.
“We’re not ignoring the residents there,” he said.
Assistant Managing Editor Julie McClure contributed to this story.
What: Annexation/rezoning requests for Arbor Investments project
Where: Meeting hall on first floor of Columbus City Hall, 123 Washington St.
When: 6 p.m. Tuesday