Whiteland rezones 123 acres for massive warehouse, considers tax breaks

When 10 Whiteland homeowners found out a 996,000-square-foot warehouse would be going up across the street from their houses, they knew they had to do something, so they teamed up and took their concerns to the town.

Together, they worked with town officials and developers to reach a better resolution.

The Whiteland Town Council agreed to rezone the 123-acre property last week to industrial from agriculture after the town’s plan commission gave it a favorable recommendation.

The council also voted on a real property tax break for the building. The abatement will relieve 49.5% of taxes paid on equipment over a 10-year period, , said Norm Gabehart, Whiteland town manager.

The town may also consider a future tax credit, but the amount would be determined in a separate agreement depending on what improvements the developer makes to the property that merit it, Gabehart said. For example, one item that may be credited is the developer’s commitment to installing excess capacity in storm water infrastructure to be built on the property that will relieve flooding in the area, he said.

The council will hold a special meeting at 7 p.m. May 26 to finalize the personal property abatement.

There is a tenant lined up for the massive speculative building, but the company is not ready to announce its plans, Gabehart said.

The warehouse will house a large logistics operation at the intersection of Graham and Whiteland roads, he said.

The town has been working on the “Mohr Development,” since the end of last year, when the developer started looking at Whiteland as a possibility for the project, he said. After visiting several sites, the developer decided on the Whiteland property. Formerly part of the Whiteland Orchard, the field had been vacant for years, he said.

The warehouse will cover 71 acres, Gabehart said. Job numbers are not finalized, but the company could bring as many as 200 new jobs to the community, he said.

Between 20 and 30 acres of the property is a wetland that will eventually be turned into a park area, Gabehart said. The wetland area is in the forested part of the property behind several houses that line Whiteland Road.

Neighbors Bryan Sutherlin and Roger Brouse organized the group of homeowners who all reside on the west side of Graham Road, near the Whiteland Road intersection. Those homeowners will soon live across the street from a logistics company that will likely operate around the clock, Sutherlin said.

Sutherlin knew buying the house about five years ago was a calculated risk. He liked the property. It was close to Franklin and Greenwood, but provided a rural, country feel. At the same time, he knew the field was up for sale, he said.

Early this year, neighbors started to notice activity at the site, and were notified of the development by the town about a month ago, Sutherlin said.

The neighbors met in Sutherlin’s backyard and went over their options, he said. They knew they likely wouldn’t be able to stop the development altogether, so they decided to reach out to town officials to share their thoughts and concerns, he said.

The neighbors went to meetings organized by the town, and met with Gabehart and project developers, Sutherlin said.

In the meetings, the parties made compromises to preserve the neighbors’ quality of life while continuing to move forward with the development, he said.

For example, the developer agreed to move a retention pond closer to Graham Road and build 120 feet further away to create a larger buffer between the neighbors and the warehouse, Gabehart said. The developer is also planning to install larger storm drains to help the neighbors with flooding issues, he said.

The building will also be surrounded by seven-foot-high earth mounds with decorative landscaping, he said.

Considering the group of neighbors live just outside of Whiteland town limits, Sutherlin was grateful town officials listened to their concerns, he said.

The outcome is about as good as it can be given the circumstances, Sutherlin said. But they are still concerned about what it will do to their property values, he said.

The town can’t always accommodate every request, Gabehart said, but officials do make an effort.

“Not everyone walked out of there 100% good with this but we did hear them,” he said.