Cummins requests variances, special exception for Greenwood location

GREENWOOD — At least part of Cummins’ plans for a new facility on Interstate 65 in Greenwood was revealed Monday night.

The Columbus-based company announced in May 2019 it would build a 100,000-square-foot information technology and digital hub on 31 acres of land located at the southeast corner of I-65 and County Line Road as part of an agreement between the city of Greenwood and the company. The city offered taxpayer-funded incentives totaling more than $10 million because Cummins agreed to invest at least $35 million and bring in 500 new jobs, paying about $100,000 each with benefits.

In December 2020, Cummins purchased the parcel for $4.5 million from the City of Greenwood as part of a new agreement between the city and company. The company requested a new agreement due to pandemic-related challenges and changes in the industry, and the new agreement gave Cummins more time and greater flexibility to determine the best future use for the property, officials said at the time.

On Monday, the company came before the Greenwood Board of Zoning Appeals after filing two waiver petitions for a service center on about 10.1 acres of the property accessed from McColgin Road. Preliminary site plans show the facility will include a retail space, a warehouse, an immediate assessment bay and several service bays. The remaining 20.9 acres will remain undeveloped for now, according to city documents.

The center would service existing customers with Cummins engines and sell retail parts, said Mark Krenzke, an engineering consultant for the company.

The vehicles would be on site for repair no longer no than 80 days, but more likely vehicles would only be on site for a few days, Krenzke said.

“It’s meant to service vehicles for customers on demand,” he said.

The company was granted a special exception to operate a major use vehicle care service facility in an interstate commerce zone. The use is permitted in this zoning area by special exception.

City staff recommended approval of the special exception with conditions. These include following the city’s landscaping requirements, performing an traffic study and to following city requests for improvements on McColgin Road based on that study, city documents show.

The BZA approved the special exception unanimously, however, Cummins’ request for seven variances for the facility’s design were not unanimous.

The board took issue with Cummins request for a variance from the city’s requirement for at least 50% masonry for the building’s front elevation and requested to use 60%, rather than 50% of the maximum allowance for pre-cast concrete panels by using 60% and not 50%. The company said the use of the concrete was a brand standard and that reducing the area by 10% would cause a rework of the design. However, similar to the request for the masonry variance, the company said the city’s requirements did not post a practical difficulty, city documents show.

In Cummins’ request, the company had said per their own brand standards, the exterior of the building would include insulated pre-cast concrete panels. The company said the panels were a more economic and sustainable use of labor and materials and would allow them to use higher quality and more visually unique materials, city documents say.

However, Cummins also said while the city’s requirement does not pose a practical difficulty, deviating from the city’s requirements would allow for an “elevated” design which would be “respectful to the Cummins brand and Greenwood standards.”

BZA member Ken Knartzer had concerns with this statement, and asked Allison Zuck, an architect working on the facility’s design, if strict application of the city’s zoning code would cause a structural issue with the facility.

“It would not be a structural problem,” Zuck said. “We would be willing to consider it if that is the decision.”

The BZA ultimately denied the two requests to deviated from the city’s design standards.

Only one person spoke out against the requests. Hal Lambert, vice president of Regency Windsor Capital, was concerned the proposed building would not fit the area. Regency Windsor Capital’s affiliated company, The Hamptons LLC, owns 67 acres of commercial business and multi-family properties located on the east side of Graham Road, he said.

Lambert has seen many promising developments come and go for the property over the years, and said a service center was not the right use for the space, he said.

“It’s our strong belief that this development will be a poison pill that will stifle and diminish the quality, character and value of the future development in the immediate and surrounding areas,” Lambert wrote in a letter read out to the BZA Monday.

The service center is not the city’s first choice for the property, but with the design provided by Cummins and the company’s willingness to conform to the city’s architecture and landscaping standards, Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers believes it could still be a good project for the property, he said.

Greenwood is not aware of any additional plans by Cummins to build on the remaining vacant property the company bought from the city in 2020 as of right now, but the company still has enough room to build a large facility there, Myers said.

“They have not plans right now other than this repair center,” Myers said.

Cummins America Facilities Manager Larry Schofield told the BZA he believed the company’s plan for landscaping would address concerns regarding how the facility would fit the area. The facility would be in harmony with neighboring businesses, he said.

Cummins spokesperson Jon Mills said there were no additional plans for development as of right now. However, the company is open to all options and wants to do whatever is best for the community, he said.