The Montgomery County Plan Commission gave a favorable recommendation Wednesday to rezoning about 350 acres of farm ground in the Nucor corridor being eyed by a nationally-known company that officials are working to land.
The 5-3 vote advancing the request to the Board of Commissioners came after nearly a dozen neighboring landowners spoke against the move, saying industrial development would increase train and truck traffic in the area and potentially harm water quality.
Some of the residents and board members demanded more information about the company, whose name and industry is being protected under a non-disclosure agreement.
The five parcels of land in the 3200 block of East C.R. 200S, owned by Wiley Connell LLC, has been identified as a potential economic development zone due to the proximity to rail tracks and major highways.
The area is bordered by the IMPA solar park on C.R. 250E on the west and Nucor Road on the east, providing quick access to U.S. 136 and Interstate 74. CSX tracks run through part of the land.
Owners Wendell Wiley and Rich Connell purchased the land in 2012 and later worked with the county to make the site shovel-ready for industrial development. In 2017, against opposition from neighbors, Wiley asked the Crawfordsville City Council to rezone part of the field allowing it to be marketed to potential investors. The city had jurisdiction over the property because it sat within Crawfordsville’s two-mile zoning radius, which was eliminated when Montgomery County adopted a zoning ordinance. Wiley later withdrew the request.
“At that time, we didn’t have a business really ready to come in, and now we do,” Wiley told the Plan Commission during a public hearing.
Wiley said he believes the company would “bring many well-paying jobs” and has a national and international reputation. In his petition, Wiley said the business could create over 300 jobs. He declined to name the company, citing the non-disclosure agreement, but said he’s seen tentative drawings for the site.
News of the potential investment came in April when redevelopment commission chair Ron Dickerson announced the county was “very close” to landing the company. Site selectors had narrowed down the search to Montgomery County and another undisclosed Indiana community.
Nearby homeowner Scott Stevens questioned why officials couldn’t disclose what kind of business is considering moving in.
“Not a name, but what do they do? I don’t think that would be proprietary in any way, shape or form because I don’t think there’s anything, you know, that hasn’t been invented or done… somewhere else,” he said.
Board member Mark Davidson drew applause when he said he couldn’t vote to advance the rezoning request without knowing more about the company.
“I don’t know if it’s going to harm these people’s property values or their livelihoods or their peace and quiet,” Davidson said.
“I wish I did though because ... I could potentially think it would be a good thing,” he added, “but without knowing, I can’t throw all these people under the bus and I don’t see how any of us could unless some of you know more than me.”
Davidson joined board members Jordan Burkett and Tammy Meyers in voting against the measure. Members Ashley Adair, Steve Canfield, Tom Cummins, Steve Loy and Aaron Morgan voted in favor.
Member John Frey, who did not attend the meeting, abstained from the vote because of family connections to Wiley. Opponents of the rezoning said Frey’s involvement was a conflict of interest.
The request now goes before the Board of Commissioners for a final vote.
Following the recommendation of county building and zoning administrator Marc Bonwell, the commission placed conditions on the rezoning.
The stipulations restrict the site from being developed for asphalt mixing, bulk fuel storage, fertilization, mineral excavation, recycling collection or processing and animal slaughter.
Any new industrial development will be required to enter and exit off of C.R. 200S and the property owner must also donate right-of-way on the north side of the road to the county for necessary road improvements.
The conditions also place a minimum 250 ft. setback to the property line of any existing homes. The setback can be reduced to 100 ft. with the installation of a landscape buffer.
Commissioners can vote to change any of the conditions, which would be permanent unless the site is rezoned.