Neighbors shared concerns about traffic and the city’s ability to provide services for a proposed 312-home subdivision on the northwest edge of Columbus.
And while developers for Abbey Place subdivision tried to provide assurances that none of those matters would be a problem, the Columbus City Council hit the pause button after more than three hours Tuesday night, also looking to raise their comfort levels on impacts of the proposal before taking a vote.
Councilwoman Laurie Booher moved to delay zoning and annexation requests until the council’s June 6 meeting, which the council unanimously approved. City leaders will spend another three weeks gathering information on the proposal by Arbor Investments of Indianapolis to build 312 homes between Indianapolis Road and Interstate 65 near the Princeton Park subdivision.
The annexation and rezoning requests being considered by the council would require approval in two separate meetings.
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Arbor Investments first approached the city last fall in an effort to gain approval to annex 154 acres into the city and to rezone 97 acres of the property to allow a higher density of homes.
About 50 people gathered in the City Hall’s Cal Brand meeting room, where the council heard comments from about a dozen people opposed to the development. They raised questioned whether the city and utilities would be able to provide needed water, sewer and fire protection services, and what effect the subdivision would have on the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp.
Elizabeth McIntosh, who lives in the area, cited concerns about infrastructure not being available in the area.
“We don’t have what it takes to put it out there,” she said. “Until the infrastructure is there, you’re asking for major trouble.”
James Persinger, another neighbor, told the council he thought the proposed development could have a negative impact on local schools.
“This is not a good idea,” said Persinger, who is a BCSC school board member but was sharing his opinion as a neighbor. “This is a horrible idea from a school standpoint.”
City-county planning director Jeff Bergman, however, read a brief statement from the Columbus-based school district indicating it was OK with the project.
Mike Campbell, vice president of land acquisition and development for Arbor Homes, said utilities, fire protection and BCSC school leaders have all told the developer there is no issue in providing necessary services to the new subdivision.
The developer plans to build about 50 homes per year on the property, Campbell said.
The city is able to provide adequate sanitary sewer service, in addition to fire protection, Bergman said. The fire department has already performed test runs to the proposed area and has said it would be able to serve the subdivision, he said.
Booher said it was important for council members to get all the information needed in order to make an informed decision, adding that she didn’t want to make assumptions that water could be provided to the area.
Campbell told council members that Eastern Bartholomew County Water Corp., of Taylorsville, is prepared to extend and enlarge a water line to the subdivision property.
City Councilman Frank Jerome said he personally wanted to perform test runs from nearby fire stations to the subdivision property, as did Booher, who said she planned to contact the water company to obtain further information. Both council members said they were concerned about the possible response time for fire protection.
City Councilwoman Elaine Wagner said she realizes the project is a significant investment being made in the city, but noted more information is needed before she can make a decision on whether to approve the rezoning and annexation requests.
“My concern is still around the services being provided,” Wagner said.
Mayor Jim Lienhoop, who was out of town and unable to attend the meeting, in an earlier interview said it would take as long as six years for the entire subdivision to be built and noted that the developers could go ahead with the project under the current zoning without the rezoning or annexation. The only difference would be the developer would have to build 10 fewer homes based on the acreage.
The rezoning and annexation requests received a favorable recommendation from the Columbus Plan Commission last month, but that endorsement came with several recommended commitments the developer would have to meet, Bergman said.
Among them are adding traffic devices to reduce vehicle speeds along Princeton Park Drive, in addition to improvements on Lowell Road and County Road 200W, he said.
Jeff Beck, an attorney representing Princeton Park homeowners, said the decision by council members to table the request was a good move.
“I think they’re doing their job by asking more questions,” Beck said.
After the meeting, Councilman Frank Miller said the proposed location for the development is already facing traffic issues.
“It’s a difficult topic whenever you annex into the city,” Miller said. “We just need to be cautious with doing it right. I think tabling it was the right move to clarify all the issues.”
He said the city needs to ensure adequate services can be provided to the area in order to provide safe housing for future residents.
“We need to make sure we’re covering all the bases,” Miller said. “It’s information necessary to make a correct decision.”
After the meeting, Don Chesney, Arbor vice president of operations, said the company will provide whatever information council members need.
“It’s part of the process,” he said.
Columbus City Council will consider the annexation and rezoning requests during its 6 p.m. meeting June 6 at Columbus City Hall, 123 Washington St.