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The Journal Gazette

Grabill-area housing OK’d

County gives nod despite rebuff of neighbors, planners

The Allen County commissioners Friday unanimously approved a new housing subdivision near Grabill, despite the proposal being rejected by the Allen County Plan Commission in July.

Commissioner Therese Brown said she had changed her mind since she cast the “nay” vote as a member of the plan commission.

“My questions have all involved possible down-the-road concerns, and those questions have been answered,” Brown said.

The plan commission is made up of nine members, four of whom are appointed by the commissioners.

Granite Ridge Builders had requested the 38-acre site in the 12100 to 12500 block of Witmer Road be rezoned from agricultural to single-family residential. The rezoning would assure the development of Saddle Creek Estates, a 102-lot subdivision. All surrounding properties are zoned agricultural.

Eighty-one neighbors had signed a petition opposing the proposal, with several citing traffic, safety and drainage concerns. Others worried it would disrupt the Amish way of life and the farming community at large.

The plan commission was concerned with access of sewer and water services, said Kim Bowman, executive director of the Department of Planning Services.

“With the (proposed) density of about 2.7 units an acre, utilities were a concern,” Bowman said.

The area is serviced by the Leo-Cedarville Regional Sewer District, but the town of Grabill had indicated earlier it was interested in providing sewer and water services for the subdivision. The Indiana Department of Environmental Management is reviewing a proposal to redraw the boundaries of the Leo-Cedarville district that would clear the way for Grabill to supply utilities.

“The approval from IDEM is there and ready,” said Josh Neal, attorney for Granite Ridge Builders. “They are waiting to hear a final decision.”

There was a need for new residential development, and those who objected to the subdivision could have stopped it, Commissioner Linda Bloom said.

“People had an opportunity to buy it and keep it as is,” Bloom said.

Approval would open the door for more development in that area, Bowman said, urging the commissioners to have a contingency plan in place before that happens.

The plan commission has final say on the plat requirements of the subdivision, and must first have assurance of water and sewer services, Bowman said.

A number of people had called the commissioners’ office, some objecting to a disruption of the Amish lifestyle, Commissioner Nelson Peters said.

“There are lifestyles throughout the U.S. and development continues,” he said.

Other concerns involved the 22-foot-wide, chip-and-seal road that has little or nonexisting shoulders and is heavily traveled by slow-moving traffic such as Amish buggies and bicycles.

“Neighbors pointed out that there is somewhat of a hill before the proposed entrance (to the subdivision) that would cause visibility problems,” Bowman said.

There has been some discussion about adding buggy lanes along entrances of the subdivision with Granite Ridge contributing financially, said Bill Hartman, Allen County Highway Department director.

According to a 2008 county highway traffic study, Witmer Road was built to handle 7,800 cars a day.

The subdivision would add about 900 more vehicles to the 1,800 that now use the road daily, Peters said.

“Even with the extra cars, we are still 5,100 short of what the road was built for,” Peters said.

Peters has talked with 14 or 15 residents in the area and has given the matter a lot of thought, he said.

“It would put a lot of people to work and we have not seen too many housing subdivisions being built in the last few years,” Peters said.

“And Grabill’s town council is interested in seeing this move forward,” Peters said.

“I have decided that the pros outweigh the cons,” he said.