The apartment complex to be built on property owned by Hancock Health at Healthway Park will have 102 single-bedroom, 148 two-bedroom and 32 three-bedroom units with rent ranging from $1,100 to $1,900 a month. Provided image
The apartment complex to be built on property owned by Hancock Health at Healthway Park will have 102 single-bedroom, 148 two-bedroom and 32 three-bedroom units with rent ranging from $1,100 to $1,900 a month. Provided image
NEW PALESTINE — Construction on a new $60 million apartment complex could begin as soon as this spring after the project received final approval this week from town officials.

The final adjustments to building plans for the complex, near the intersection of U.S. 52 and Mt. Comfort Road, were approved Wednesday, Jan. 5, by the town’s planning commission and council.

Conditions attached to the approval included having a representative of the town be part of the complex’s association; installing a 6-foot privacy fence along the southern property line; and that no apartment unit will cost a tenant less than $900 per month.

Rawn Walley, president of the plan commission, said fears expressed by Southern Hancock schools officials and others about missing out on revenue because of incentives in place in the area were unfounded. The growing population, he suggested, will help make up for diverted revenue in other ways.

“All of us will benefit from income taxes,” Walley said.

Walley pointed out that the schools will get funding for each student who lives in the complex as part of the state’s funding formula. And the town will get money from each unit that is filled via connection fees, he added.

“This project is a valuable one for the town now and in the future,” Walley said.

Chris Lytle, who is a member of the planning commission and the town council, agreed, saying people who live in the complex will be spending money locally. The complex is the type of addition people in town want, he said.

“I don’t see anything being negative about this,” Lytle said. “It’s all positive.”

Not everyone was sold on the idea, however.

Prior to the passage of the building design changes by the planning commission, Dale Wagner and Greg Spivey, New Palestine residents who live near the development site, spoke against the construction of the apartments.

The two felt the town and developers, which include officials from Hancock Regional Hospital, which controls the 27 acres behind the Hancock Wellness Center where the complex will be built, kept the plans for the project from the community.

The two men discussed paperwork from previous plan commission and council meetings, saying community residents were not properly alerted to meetings discussing the development as long as two years ago.

“You couldn’t find out about this by reading the minutes,” Wagner said. “This seems to have been going on for some time, but there was never any mention of it. We didn’t know anything about this until Dec. 1 (2021), and that’s where we’re coming from.”

Wagner was particularly upset some members of the council visited a complex by the developer, the Becovic Management Group, in Carmel and didn’t tell the community what they were doing.

Bill Niemier, a plan commission member and the council’s president, said council members spend many hours of their own time researching issues and that no one intended to keep this project a secret.

“That’s part of gathering information for your own decision making,” Niemier said. “It does not mean secrecy — it’s just part of the job.”

The structure of the area’s land-use plan did not require extensive hearings and debate beyond its original approval two years ago. In 2020, New Palestine officials, working with Hancock Health, approved standards and regulations governing future development across the 66 acres Hancock Health owns in town. That included uses that would be permitted there, including residential ones, even though no specific plans existed at that time.

The plan commission approved the final plans by a vote of 6-1, with only Raven Smathers voting against the development. The town council approved the final changes in the design plans 4-0. Council member Brandee Bastin did not attend the meeting.

The apartment complex will have 102 single-bedroom, 148 two-bedroom and 32 three-bedroom units with rent ranging from $1,100 to $1,900 a month.
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