Commission sends favorable recommendation on subdivision to council

Mike Wolanin | The Republic The exterior of The Commons with the Bartholomew County Courthouse pictured in the background in downtown Columbus, Ind., Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017.

Columbus Plan Commission members have approved forwarding a favorable recommendation to the Columbus City Council regarding the annexation and rezoning of property where an applicant plans to build a single-family residential subdivision. Votes on both matters were 10-0.

Columbus City Council makes all final decisions on annexation and rezoning applications.

Snitko Holdings LLC is asking to annex and rezone 15 acres of property at 3361 N. Talley Road in Clay Township. The applicant requests the area be rezoned from AP (Agricultural: Preferred) to RS1 (Residential: Single Family 1). The intent of the RS1 zoning is to provide areas for low density, single-family residences.

David Smith of Snitko said the goal is to put “about a dozen additional houses on the property,” with each lot about an acre in size. He added there would be a retention pond on the green space to deal with drainage.

Planning staff found the property is 50% contiguous with the boundary of the city, satisfying the 12.5% contiguity requirement for annexation.They found the area could be provided with all city services, another requirement for annexation.

Additionally, city officials look at a list of 10 adopted city policies on annexation, particularly two that say the city’s boundaries should promote efficient provision of services and that “contiguous lands needed for orderly growth and implementation of the comprehensive plan should be part of the city,” according to a planning staff slide presentation shown to the commission.

The planning department’s Melissa Begley pointed towards two goals and policies in the comprehensive plan relevant to the application as well— a policy that “requires new developments to take place in an orderly fashion to facilitate efficient provision of services at a reasonable cost” and a goal to encourage development of a sufficient supply of diverse housing types.

The city’s comprehensive plan identifies the future land use for the area as residential.

An area of slight concern for the commission was that a significant part of the site is located in FEMA Zone A, an area of unmapped flood hazards. However, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) “determined that no floodway is present and has provided a base flood elevation as a basis for the flood protection of any structures,” according to a planning department staff report. Begley said the structures would have to be 2 feet above the base flood elevation at a minimum.

“There is no floodway that’s actually on this property, it’s just a flood zone. So as you might remember anything in a floodway— you can’t do anything with that, you can’t build on it,” Begley said.

Commissioner Zach Ellison asked for confirmation that the drainage plan for the property would come later in the process.

“Their next step would be preparing the preliminary plat, which would actually show the physical layout of the lots,” Begley said. “It would show all of the infrastructure, it would show new streets, it would show the utilities, it would have a drainage plan— it would provide all of those details at that stage.”

The property is near an unnamed tributary connected to the Sloan Branch of Clifty Creek. Standing water sometimes found on the property comes from Sloan Branch, according to Begley.

Commissioner Laura Garrett asked if there was a certain standard for handling the water currently existing on the property.

“Any water coming off-site on their site, they have to manage that and take care of that,” City Engineer Andrew Beckort said. “And then for their development they will be required to detain any new additional runoff from hard surfaces on their property.”

According to Smith, the development of the new addition could begin at the end of the year, but more likely will happen next year. It partly coincides with improvements to Talley Road the city is undertaking that are expected to begin in 2026.

Commissioner Melanie Henderson wondered whether the current condition of Talley could support all the traffic it would take to build a subdivision in the meantime.

“I remember there’s erosion happening on that road if I’m not mistaken,” Henderson said.

Beckort said it was recently overlaid and could handle the traffic, but the improvements “will definitely help— it’s an old county road.”

“I believe the new expansion is similar to what’s been done on Rocky Ford with three lanes, with a center turning lane, so yes, Talley Road needs some improvements,” Smith said.

During public comment, some neighbors expressed concern about farmland being taken out of production, the drainage situation on the property and potential impact to property values.

Smith, a full-time real estate agent said “the number one problem that I see with homes and deterioration and devaluation is water erosion. So that is one of my primary concerns with the development that it is mitigated and handled properly.”

He said too that in his experience low-density housing “tends to increase the property value for surrounding properties.”

City/County Planning Director Jeff Bergman said the first reading regarding the annexation and rezoning will be on the City Council’s May 7 agenda.