Boone County property owners asking Lebanon to annex hundreds of acres

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The state of Indiana has been securing farmland in Boone County like this for the LEAP Lebanon Innovation and Research District. (IBJ photo/Daniel Bradley)

Plans for an expansive, high-tech business park in rural Boone County are moving forward, with nearly three dozen property owners asking Lebanon officials to annex their land to support the development.

About 32 individuals and companies who own more than 1,400 acres over 56 parcels submitted petitions to have their properties added to the city of Lebanon. The Lebanon Plan Commission is expected to receive the petitions Tuesday night.

The move, first reported Monday by the Lebanon Reporter, comes as the Indiana Economic Development Corp.—the state’s economic development arm—pushes forward with its plans for the LEAP Lebanon Innovation and Research District, which is the project in which the land will be included.

The IEDC has about 6,000 total acres under contract for the development, a venture it has been working on since last year. The individual parcels being considered for annexation range from as little as 0.8 acres to nearly 157 acres, and they together account for about 1,459 acres. About two-thirds of the property is owned by four companies and families and their affiliates.

The single-largest property owner is Richard and Brenda Weber, who own about 368.5 acres. E. Brent and Tricia Smith and two affiliates—BT Smith Family LLC and Brent Smith Family Shelters—own about 247.4 acres. Castle Hill Corp. owns about 241.2 acres and the Dean and Mary Jane Jackson family owns 136.4 acres.

In addition to asking for the land to be be incorporated into the city, all the property owners are asking Lebanon to rezone the acreage to a general industrial classification. After the plan commission reviews and weighs in on the annexation and zoning requests, the petitions will passed on to the Lebanon City Council for review July 11 and could be passed at the July 25 council meeting. City staff is recommending approval for the requests.

Some of the parcels contain single-family homes and smaller farms north of Lebanon. The city is pursuing the annexation on a volunteer basis and has received overwhelming cooperation, but the owners of least three parcels within the general bounds of the proposed development have so far opted out of being annexed.

Annexation generally allows cities to incorporate growing areas into their boundaries, giving them more control over future users for parcels when developers pursue redevelopment. It also adds to a municipality’s tax base.

The property being considered will be the first portion the state will develop through the LEAP district, for which the IEDC could deploy new incentive tools tied to specially-designated innovation districts.

LEAP stands for “limitless exploration/advanced pace,” as the state plans to use the site to attract attract companies in the advanced manufacturing, research and development, life sciences, technology, and microelectronics and semiconductor industries.

The site generally has significantly easier utility access than farmland further west of Lebanon, making it more appealing for the city and state to develop first.

There are two distinct areas of proposed redevelopment in the first phase of the high-tech district.

The state last month announced Eli Lilly and Co. would anchor the northern portion of LEAP, spending $2.1 billion on two new manufacturing facilities. The company plans to take about 600 acres just east of Interstate 65. The Lilly facilities are expected to eventually be surrounded by suppliers and other tech-driven firms.

The southern area will hone in on headquarters and research and development facilities, as well as more advanced manufacturing.

The southern portion is roughly between Interstate 65 to the east, Indiana 32 to the south and County Road 300 North to the north. Its western boundary is near County Road 200 West. Most of the land is adjacent to property that is already within Lebanon’s city boundaries.

A more narrow portion would extend further northward, to about West 300 North—where a new interchange is expected to be constructed. East of Interstate 65, the project is expected to take up at least another 800 acres that extends to West 500 North and runs along the CSX railroad tracks.

Boone County officials have touted the the Lilly project in particular as a “game-changer” for the area.

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