November 29, 2023 at 3:15 p.m.

Planning Commission Meeting Notes 11/27: Rezoning Request Denied

By JESSICA DECKARD | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

Members of the Planning Commission meet Monday to discuss rezoning the property located at 10021 N St. Road 9. 

The parcel under consideration is a 1.47-acre residential property that was bought by Tharp Investment Group from Karen Burchett. 

Tharp Investment Group, based out of Indianapolis, wishes to have the property rezoned from R1 to B1 in order to build a 10,500-square-foot Dollar Tree Store. Bill Niemier, the attorney for Tharp Investment Group, shared the building would cost $2.5 million to construct with two different possible site plans. The store would employ 13 to 15 full-time employees. He did acknowledge the historical nature of the property and said that anyone who was interested in the home could move it free of charge. They need only cover moving the house.

Members of the Planning Commission were led by Building and Zoning Administrator Matthew Galbraith. Other members included James Cave, Ohmer Miller, Ed Johnson, Mary Bragg, and Randy Simms. Members of the commission had questions for Niemier. 

Pictured James Cave, Ohmer Miller, Mary Bragg, Randy Simms and matt Galbraith. Photo credit: Jessica Deckard. Randy Simms asked what the average daily traffic count for Dollar Tree Stores was. Niemier did not know.

Ed Johnson asked if the proposed six-foot “activity zone” sidewalk would be closer to the road. Niemier could not answer this question stating that it would be whatever the engineers recommended. Randy Simms was concerned the proposed plans did not show the right of way for State Road 9. Niemier responded that the plans were not yet fully engineered.

Ohmer Miller asked what other sites in town had been considered. Niemier did not know. Randy Simms asked if the site across from Huck’s gas station had been considered as it was a more suitable location. Ed Johnson asked for clarification that there was no alternate use considered. He wanted assurance it was only bought for single tenant use. Ohmer Miller asked for clarification on the activity path. He wanted reassurance there would be no change with the community pool or Gearhart Family Dentistry Office. Niemier stated the entrance would be on South Street with another entrance as far south as possible on State Road 9. Deliveries would take place on the side of the building. A conveyor would be extended inside the building so there were no aluminum delivery carts littering up the parking lot. The building would be located back as far south on the lot as possible. 

Randy Simms expressed concerns the building would block the open corridor view of State Road 9. He was also concerned about the effect of surrounding property values. Simms also asked what the building would be made of and if they had building structures other than steel. Niemier said they did have stores with brick storefronts, and they sometimes used split face block and metal. There is a brick Dollar Tree store in Carmel. He shared the building material would be chosen by whatever was required in the permitting process. Simms asked what the height of the building would be. Niemier responded that also depended on permitting. Ohmer Miller asked what the expected life span of the building would be. Niemier responded 40 to 50 years. 

Ed Johnson expressed concern about traffic on South Street as that is the town’s commercial district. There is heavy traffic from steel and fertilizer trucks that have difficulty taking that corner. The proposed store would add a lot more traffic to that intersection. Niemier said they could work with the Indiana Department of Transportation to widen that intersection. 

Ed Johnson pointed out the daycare right next door and how dangerous increased traffic would be for them. In tone deaf fashion, Niemier suggested that the store would be a great place for the daycare to purchase crafts. Niemier then requested a recommendation to the town council to approve the rezoning request.

No members of the audience spoke out in favor of the Dollar Tree store. 

Fourteen residents got up and spoke out in opposition. There was also one letter submitted in opposition. There were many concerns. 

Many residents considered it an eyesore and were worried about the store lowering neighboring property values. The increased traffic the store would bring was frequently mentioned as a safety concern at an already dangerous intersection. Local students also travel this route daily after school and the cross-country team runs their route through there. Their safety was a frequent fear. 

There was also unease over not being able to staff the store as two local businesses had shut down post-COVID due to staffing issues. 

The proximity of the store parking lot to the public pool was also anxiety inducing. 

There were also concerns of an environmental nature regarding light pollution from the store sign and lighting on the building, how drainage would be handled, whether dumpsters would be visible and the heating effect of the asphalt parking lot on the community. 

Tharp lawyer Niemier responded that drainage, traffic, lighting and dumpsters would be addressed during the permitting process. 

Many residents stated the town already had a Dollar General and a Dollar Tree would be an unnecessary duplication, preferring to see other types of business come to town. Other residents and representatives of Main Street of Hope pointed out the historic value of the property. The vinyl siding hides a log cabin that was the home of one of the town’s original settlers. It dates to 1839 and is registered with the state and federal government as a significant property in Hope’s Historic District. 

Members of the commission then had a chance to comment again. Simms sited safety concerns, property values and traffic. Ed shared unease over safety with increased traffic. Randy Simms then made a motion to deny the rezoning request. Ed Johnson seconded the motion. The commission voted unanimously against recommending rezoning to the town council. 

Their recommendation will be made to the town council for a final decision at the upcoming meeting on December 19, 2023.