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Boone County / Hamilton County / Regional News

Westfield Plan Commission delays voting on Aurora development

December 5, 2016

The Westfield Plan Commission delayed voting Monday night on new zoning regulations for a mixed-use development near the southeast corner of U.S. 31 and State Road 38 that was first proposed 10 years ago.

The potential $300 million Aurora project would cover 317 acres and include four sections—a business park, retail center, residential community and commerce park.

Developer Chris R. White initially proposed the development in 2006 and received approval from the Westfield City Council in 2008, but then delayed getting started because of the Great Recession.

White recently returned to the city with a revised zoning request for the property. The most significant change is that the commercial area increased from 85 acres to 218.

Aurora would also have up to 194 residential units, a 20-acre business park and 17 acres of retail near the corner of State Road 38 and Grassy Branch Road.

So far, the proposal hasn’t received a warm response from residents, who packed the Plan Commission meeting Monday night wearing yellow T-shirts that read “Aurora hurts homeowners.” The neighbors have formed a group known as the Responsible Growth Alliance and hired an attorney to represent them.

Clark, Quinn, Moses, Scott & Grahn LLP attorney Russell Brown, who is representing White, told the Plan Commission that the developer has had multiple meetings with residents since the initial presentation to the City Council in September and has been making adjustments to the zoning regulations.

For example, fast food restaurants will no longer be allowed in the retail section and any hotel would be limited to a specific area of the commercial section that sits to the west of the retail component. A special exception would be needed for a gas station to be allowed.

The commercial section has also been divided into three categories as a way to have more specific restrictions in terms of building height and uses depending on the location.

Residents still weren’t happy with the proposal, though, and public comment lasted 45 minutes, with most speakers arguing that the potential industrial uses in the commercial section weren’t appropriate so close to a residential area.

“This could be a very, very bad thing for our city,” Grassy Branch resident Megan Brown said.

Brown, the attorney for White, told the Plan Commission after the public hearing that White is willing to further specify what types of industrial uses could be allowed.

Plan Commission and City Council member Steve Hoover suggested the residents let city officials know what particular uses they would be amenable to and which uses they would oppose.

“My concerns may be different than yours,” Hoover said.

The advisory body postponed voting until those concerns could be further addressed. Plan Commission member Andre Maue said it’s up to White when it will return to the agenda.

But some of the residents would have preferred a negative recommendation on the proposal, rather than delaying a vote.

“It is an incredibly hard pill to swallow, that regardless of the validity of our oppositional points and the depth of our of personal pleas, we were effectively told to sit down and play nice in order to arrive at some type of agreement,” resident Marla Ailor said after the meeting. “It should not befall the people to tell a developer what would or would not be acceptable in open industrial zoning but rather, the developer might explain to the people why he needs the zoning in the first place.”

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