The Shelby County Plan Commission heard an update on a study being done that is looking at future development in three particular locations during its monthly meeting on Tuesday.

Phillip Roth of American Structurepoint Inc. gave a presentation on the study, which involves representatives from the county government, local stakeholders and representatives from American Structurepoint.

The study is looking at three areas of interest in the county – Moral Township (specifically along Interstate 74 where much development is already underway), Morristown and the Waldron/St. Paul area.

A recommendation by American Structurepoint will be made next year that could be implemented in a number of ways, Roth told the commission, including amending the county’s comprehensive plan, the land use plan or specific policies.

It may also include specific district plans that could be used as guidance by the local government.

Roth briefly discussed all three locations, pointing out potential in each while also highlighting areas of concern.

Morristown has “interesting characteristics” but he said there might not be as much potential as previously thought, in part because of a flood plain that is a significant impediment to utilities and development. Any development would have to be off US-52 towards Fountaintown, he said.

One of the reasons that Morristown is of interest in the study is that it has a high concentration of heavy industry that has outside storage and operations.

The study is looking at retail gaps (i.e. people spending money outside the county or the area where they live) as well as employment trends, utility networks and transportation networks.

The Morristown area is very dependent on Hancock County’s transportation network because it sits at the border of the two counties.

Roth said the most common comment heard regarding Morristown is that there is an inadequacy of infrastructure and utilities in the area.

The Waldron/St. Paul area does not have industrial development but that area has been noted as a strategic site by the Indiana Development Corporation.

The confluence of the area being around three counties makes it an “interesting jurisdictional puzzle,” Roth said.

“If you have development here, is everybody going to be on the same playbook with how it develops and how it’s going to be regulated and what kind of requirements are going to be put on industrial development in this area?” he said.

He pointed to utilities being a concern as well as the transportation network being a little bit sparse.

“The communities are reasonably well insulated from whatever development might happen here,” he said.

Moral Township is a gateway into Shelby County from Marion County, he pointed out.

The development on the south side of the Pleasant View interchange includes local road networks being developed that will facilitate further development of that area.

Roth said the study was about 33 percent done.

There has not been public input to this point because American Structurepoint wants to have a more concrete idea of what will come next from the study.

That raised some concerns, particularly from Plan Commission member Kevin Carson.

He pointed to the frustration expressed by residents who said they were not privy to the process in completing the county’s 2019 Comprehensive Plan.

“If you come up with a plan and then ask us to vote on that plan, that residents didn’t have any input on, I think that’s going to be an issue,” he said.

Roth said he understood those concerns and emphasized that he believed public participation was important. But he stood firm in his belief that the study should not include public comment at this point due to the uncertainty of what direction it will go in.

“I tried to point out to them, the meetings were advertised and you all had the opportunity to have input,” Carson said in response. “It wasn’t important to you then because it wasn’t in your backyard that day. Now that it’s in your backyard, now it’s important to you. Everybody was given an opportunity. I’m worried that if we don’t at least bring it out to the public at some point, that they’re going to be pointing fingers at us saying what did we do?”

Roth again concurred with Carson’s sentiment.

“I think we want to be able to have an idea of what kind of questions we’re going to be asking them before go out and start talking to them,” he said. “That’s why I’m being a little more hesitant right now.”

He went onto say that public input would begin to be gathered after the holiday season.

No action was taken by the commission regarding the study. The study’s recommendations are expected to be ready in the first quarter of 2024.
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