Westfield panel advances Wood Wind housing development plan

After months of plan revisions and heated discussions, the Westfield Plan Commission on Monday night gave Pulte Homes a nod of support for its controversial proposal to build a housing development that would surround Wood Wind Golf Club.

In August, Pulte introduced its plans for a 780-acre neighborhood that would stretch from 146th Street to 166th Streets along both sides of Towne Road, but residents and city officials voiced concerns about density, traffic, possible uses and home designs.

The Westfield Plan Commission split 4-4 in February on whether to send the proposal to the Westfield City Council with a positive or negative recommendation.

At Pulte’s request, the City Council agreed to send the proposal back to the Plan Commission and, since then, significant changes have been made to the plan.

The overall size of the development has been reduced from 1,105 single-family houses to 856, and nearly 75 acres have been removed so it now only covers 706 acres. The multifamily housing and commercial components have also been dropped.

The amount of open space increased from 255 acres to 290 acres, meaning more than 40 percent of the development would be open.

Ashley Bedell, director of land planning and entitlements for Pulte, said the developer also made changes to the types of home models that would be allowed and offered, including introducing a new type of home that Pulte has not built previously in the Indianapolis area. The design modifications increased the average sales price from $440,000 to more than $500,000.

The changes from Pulte were enough to convince several Plan Commission members to flip their votes—Tom Smith, Chris Woodard and David Schmitz voted against a positive recommendation in February, but supported the motion Monday night.

The advisory body voted 7-3 in favor of sending a positive recommendation to the council. Plan Commission member Ginny Kelleher remained opposed to it; Randy Graham switched from supporting the project to opposing it; and Robert Smith, who was absent from the February meeting, opposed it.

Robert Smith had previously said had he been able to attend the February meeting, he would have voted against it. On Monday, he said his biggest question was whether the golf course was struggling financially, because he had not seen any proof of that.

“One of the biggest cornerstones from Day One of this proposal has been save the golf course,” Smith said. “If there’s no need to save the golf course, then that is a big issue.”

The future of Wood Wind, which was originally known as Hanging Tree and later as Bent Tree, has been a heated issue in Westfield for years.

In March 2015, developer George Sweet revealed plans to turn it into a 315-unit subdivision on 210 acres along Towne Road between 161st and 156th streets, and in September 2015, the operator of the golf course said it would close at the end of the year.

More than 1,000 residents signed a petition to keep the golf course, and by November 2015, Cohoat and O’Neal Management Corp. announced that it reached a deal to remain open.

Then, in February 2016, Mark Thompson, whose family developed the city’s only non-exclusive golf course in 1990 and still owns the property today, announced that Pulte Homes planned to buy the 18-hole course and revive it with residential development.

Despite Pulte’s intentions to upgrade the golf course and keep it open to the public, there was still opposition to the development, which led to months of meetings between the developer, residents and city officials.

“I had made some very strong requests,” Woodard said. “I believe that everything that I have asked for in that process has been accommodated. This is a good project for the city of Westfield.”

The project still requires approval from the City Council. 

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