Bedroom community awakens to growth nightmare: McCordsville land use, design standards put to test

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This town is grateful just to have had a dentist hang out a shingle along its main drag the other day. McCordsville even held a ribbon cutting for a gas station-that remodeled. It’s hard to figure the locals would be uptight about much in the way of development.

But, recently, the folks at Mc-Cordsville’s veterinary-clinic-turnedtown-hall took a long look a couple of miles north, to Fishers-the

poster-child for explosive residential development-and they winced.

So McCordsville recently adopted a land use plan and building standards intended to prevent the problems of other fast-growing communities.

“You drive through certain areas north of McCordsville and you see relatively well-built, highend homes. But within less than a mile from there you see homes without any character to them-I guess you’d call them vinyl boxes,” said McCordsville town councilman Tom Strayer. “Inexpensive homes are needed. Poorly designed homes are not.”

Hold the cherry pie, Aunt Bee; the folks in northwest Hancock County are getting mighty persnickety.

“We really want to have focused, planned growth,” said Tonya Galbraith, town manager.

Galbraith has reason to be concerned. During the 2000 U.S. census, the town’s population was about 1,100. “We think it’s closer to 3,800 right now.”

These townies are as serious as burned biscuits about their standards. For example, KB Homes was forced to come back to town hall at least four times with plans for its 692-home Villages at Brookside before the council signed off, Galbraith said.

Strayer, an architect at Designplan Inc. in Indianapolis, grew up in a farming community. He said it’s hard for him to balance the concept of property rights with McCordsville’s stringent new architectural and density standards.

He said the issue is not one of “style,” but of quality. “The town doesn’t want 10 years from now that these houses are un-sellable.”

The council did receive complaints from people living in the area of the proposed Geist Woods development, near the Hamilton County line.

The density of the houses in the proposed 82-acre development was higher than some would have preferred. But with the future neighborhood pushing $450,000 homes, McCordsville leaders eventually deemed Geist Woods preferable to the vinyl villages that could have sprouted there.

In the future, it’s likely more sparks will fly from the council’s cramped quarters in city hall. All up and down Mount Comfort Road are “property for sale” signs screaming of impending residential and commercial projects by developers accustomed to having it their way.

“At any given time, some of this is for sale,” said Galbraith, driving the town’s Buick Century staff car along Mount Comfort Road near the old Brookside Airport.

McCordsville has had little growth from a business standpoint. A Village Pantry and the rebuilt Gas America still anchor corners of the Mount Comfort Road and Pendleton Pike intersection.

Along Pendleton are used car lots, antique shops, an eatery and white clapboard houses. On the northeast end of town, at Pendleton Pike and State Road 234, is a newer Chevy dealership. Nearby, a developer proposed building condominiums, but was shot down by the council because the area was designated by the town for commercial development.

“I used to hear commercial won’t come until the rooftops are here,” Galbraith said. Now, “commercial is starting to follow.”

Galbraith pointed to the site of the former Brookside Airport, where Hancock County Hospital bought a dozen acres of land and plans medical offices. A mix of retail is planned just north of the new McCordsville Elementary School, south of town on Mount Comfort Road.

“As far as industrial, we really don’t have any industry yet,” she said.

McCordsville does have a CSX rail line that parallels Pendleton Pike. It also has its own sewer system, which is likely to be a catalyst to growth. As she drives down a county road splitting corn fields just east of town, Galbraith says: “All of this will be McCordsville city limits, I imagine, in five years.”

The town is already planning to widen County Road 800N. It’s hired a consultant to look at road widening and alignment options through the heart of town, which has become an alternative route for Fishers residents trying to avoid Interstate 69 traffic.

“We want to keep up with growth and stay ahead of it,” Galbraith said.

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