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Boone County / Hamilton County / Regional News

Westfield Plan Commission approves Aurora development

January 4, 2017

A 300-plus-acre office, retail and residential development proposed near the southeast corner of U.S. 31 and State Road 38 in Westfield cleared a hurdle Wednesday night.

The project, known as Aurora, was initially approved by the city of Westfield in 2008, but never got started. Developer Chris R. White returned to the city in the fall requesting modifications to the zoning that included a significant increase in the commercial area.

The Westfield Plan Commission unanimously agreed to send the proposal to the Westfield City Council with a favorable recommendation Wednesday night after additional changes were made to the zoning, including a shift in each section's size and the addition of more buffering for the surrounding neighbors.

The approved zoning calls for a 20-acre business park, 216-acre commerce park, 17-acre retail center and 61-acre residential area with up to 250 housing units. But the size of the commercial and retail sections can be increased or decreased by 15 percent.

The business park, which is expected to include hotels, general or medical offices, call centers and educational facilities, could be increased up to 15 percent in size, but cannot be decreased.

The commercial district is geared toward office and warehouse usage and prohibits taverns and nightclubs. Restaurants and fast-food establishments would be prohibited in the middle portion of the property, but microbreweries would be allowed.

A hotel would only be allowed in the commercial and retail sections to the west of the East Street extension that would run through the property or in the business park, which sits along U.S. 31.

The retail center, which is at the southwest corner of SR 38 and Grassy Branch Road, would include uses such as drug stores, banks, restaurants, a grocery store and coffee shops

The residential areas would include attached townhomes, duplexes and condominiums. The average sales price is expected to b e $260,000. In project documents submitted to the city, White said he’s negotiating with CalAtlantic Homes to be the builder.

The 314-acre development does not include the 3-acre property where not-for-profit Providence Wildlife operates, but could be included if White and property owner Kristen and Keith Heitman reach an agreement in the future.

Construction on the infrastructure for the development are expected to start this summer. Total buildout is expected to last 10 years.

The Plan Commission delayed voting on the proposal in December and suggested residents and the developer continue to work together to reach compromises on the issues.

The neighbors formed a group known as the Responsible Growth Alliance shortly after White introduced the project in the fall and hired an attorney to represent them. After the December meeting, the group drafted a new zoning proposal for the property that still included a business park, commercial section and retail center, but had significant buffering and did not include any residential housing.

Clark, Quinn, Moses, Scott & Grahn LLP attorney Russell Brown, who is representing White, said they considered the suggestions but couldn’t eliminate the housing component.

“While their response was very thought out… it went beyond the discussion of tweaks,” Brown said. “It was a complete revamping of the ordinance.”

Plan Commission members said they were pleased with the changes and believe it was a much better option than the original zoning approved years ago.

“What was presented originally, I believe was an improvement over the zoning that exists today, and I think over the process we’ve made significant strides,” Plan Commission and City Council member Steve Hoover said. “I think the process has worked well, and we can move forward with a much better product.”

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