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Commissioners OK rezoning 300 South parcel

Commissioner Butch Baker discusses research he did on the rezoning issue along County Road 300 South during Wednesday night’s meeting.

By DARREL RADFORD - dradford@thecouriertimes.com

In spite of opposition, Henry County Commissioners unanimously approved an ordinance Wednesday night to rezone approximately 143 acres on East County Road 300 South in Henry Township from rural residential to light industrial.

During the meeting, which drew more than 60 people to the old Circuit Courtroom of the Henry County Courthouse, each commissioner emphasized they heard and understood the concerns about the proposal. Each also said they hear something else, almost on a daily basis: the need for more job opportunities to keep young people here and families intact.

Commissioners heard comments from the public concerning the rezoning matter at a previous meeting, but tabled the issue until it could be studied more. 

“I understand the concerns of the people,” Commissioner Ed Yanos said. “But to me, the main thing is I want to see Henry County move forward and have jobs for our children and our grandchildren. We have people who are living in close proximity to the industrial park along Road 300 South and in White Estates. I do not believe this will be as much of a problem as some people fear.”

“I understand it’s the fear of the unknown,” Commissioner Butch Baker said. “I also know lots of people have been telling us for a year and half ‘you need to look at industry.’ And I understand that. I also understand everybody wants industry as long as it’s not in their back yard. And no matter where we put it, it’s going to be in somebody’s back yard.”

The request came from Hissaydar Investments LLC of 2548 N. Ind. 3, New Castle, which currently uses the parcel as farm land. In previous discussions, economic development officials have stressed the rezoning could help attract new business, thanks to its proximity to existing electric, water and sewage infrastructure.

Commissioners stressed to concerned citizens they have tried to do their homework on the issue.

Baker said he recognized the three major concerns with the rezoning:

• impact on property values

• drainage issues

• proximity to the flood plain

“During the past week, I have done my best to look into those areas,” Baker said. “Very little of the flood plain is in that 142 acres. I drove down into that area after we had 3.5 to 4 inches of rain on Tuesday. There were small pockets of water in some of the yards but no indication of severe flooding during that heavy, heavy rain.”

Baker also said he spoke to five different real estate agents, all of whom said the rezoning wouldn’t have major effects on property values.

“If any type of building structure would go on that 142 acres and the county would adhere to and enforce current ordinances, it would improve the drainage,” Baker said. “All the realtors said that.”

Commissioner Kim Cronk stressed “this was a hard decision,” but also urged those not happy with it to look at recent history. He said a recent Facebook post calling the commissioners a rubber stamp for the planning commission was both unfair and untrue.

“If you look back at the history on decisions like this, the planning commission has voted twice – once on the asphalt plant and again on an ethanol plant – and we overturned their recommendation in both instances. More recently was a proposal some people in the Mt. Summit area didn’t like. There was a difference of opinion about The Dollar Store there, but that has been a positive thing and helped the community. After we turned down the asphalt plant, we were able to obtain Boar’s Head, a valuable asset to the community.”

Cronk said controversial decisions like the central-site elementary school issue that raged for years in the Shenandoah district didn’t please everyone but has worked out in the long run.

“I always value public input,” he said. “I guess this is the bad part about being commissioner. We have to make decisions not everybody is going to be happy with.”

Cronk did remind those concerned about the decision that this represented just a first step for Hissaydar Investments.

“This is just the beginning of the process. They have to back for permits with anything else they plan to do and it could end up right back here.”

There are no firm plans for the property yet. It can be used as farmland until a light industrial tenant is found.