Greenwood council says ‘no’ to Kelsay Farms rezoning

Another proposal to rezone just over 154 acres on Greenwood’s southeast side for commercial and industrial use failed in a split city council vote Monday night.

In a split 4-4 vote with one member absent, the Greenwood City Council failed to approve the rezoning of about 154.4 acres of land located on the southeast corner of Worthsville Road and County Road 250 East/Collins Road from agricultural to commercial and industrial zoning. The vote came after well over 60 area residents came out to oppose the rezoning Monday.

Kelsay Farms, and its associated company, JRM Associates LP, requested the rezoning after Indianapolis-based Duke Realty approached the Kelsay family about developing a mixed-use project on the land. The largest chunk of the proposed rezoning would have been for the development of a manufacturing, light industrial or warehouse/distribution center, with commercial lots along Worthsville Road. The number of buildings was unknown as it was speculative, according to city documents.

The rezoning received an unfavorable recommendation from the city’s Advisory Plan Commission last week after dozens of residents came out to oppose it.

The Kelsay Family has owned the land for four generations and has been trying to sell the land since the family’s dairy farm closed in 2018. Since then the family has received several proposals from developers interested in selling the land, said Eric Prime, an attorney representing the family.

This was not the first time the same plot of land was up for a rezone request.

One of those proposals for that same land made it before the plan commission in 2019 when Kelsay Farms requested to rezone about 188 acres the land to industrial for five large warehouses to be built by a Chicago-based logistics company.

Representatives of Kelsay Farms were requesting to rezone about 154.4 acres of Agricultural land east of the Worthsville Road Interstate 65 interchange to commercial and industrial. About 18.2 acres of commercial lots would line Worthsville Road, with industrial warehouses filling up the rest of the space. Daily Journal Screenshot

That proposal was met with opposition from nearby residents, and the plan commission was unable to decide on the proposal. The developer withdrew it a few weeks later at the request of Mayor Mark Myers.

Residents near the proposed new rezoning came back Monday night to oppose it. Many in opposition of the plan brought signs and poster-size printouts of the plans.

Greenwood resident Randy Goodin, who lives west of the I-65 interchange, told the city council Monday that when the developer reached out to him and the Facebook group he manages, Concerned Citizens of Greenwood IN, he was originally in support of the proposal. He said he felt bad for the family having to hold onto the property after all they went through with the closure of their dairy business, he said.

However, after doing additional research, he was no longer in support, as the family owns several tracts of land in Johnson County in other areas. The Kelsay family and their associated company JRM Associates LP, own over 1,400 acres of land in Johnson County, according to online property records.

Goodin also brought up how the city said there would be no more industrial development south of Worthsville Road. In early 2019, two different controversial industrial rezones were proposed on the south side of Worthsville Road in the same area, and both proposals failed. City officials at the time had said they wanted to stick with the comprehensive plan, which lists the land as mixed-use, not industrial.

“What are the benefits of developing something like this versus the risk to the neighbors, the property values to the neighbors and the safety of anyone who lives along the corridor?” Goodin said.

Others brought up the city’s promise to stick to the comprehensive plan, including Audra Surface, who lives east of the property in unincorporated Johnson County. She asked the city council to honor the promise of no more warehouses south of Worthsville.

She also told the council she was concerned how warehouses could affect the future resell value of her home. The homes in the area are not starter homes and required a significant investment, Surface said.

“If we were to sell our home in the future, which of you are going to come and offer us full asking price knowing that we live immediately next door to a warehouse. We’re not going to get what we put into our home. It’s not going to happen,” she told the council.

Whiteland resident David Ebeyer said he had been trying to sell two two-acre tracts of land in the area when news of the rezone proposals came out. These sales were in the closing process, but following the reports, at least one buyer has backed out, he said.

Council members were divided on what type of development should be allowed at the Worthsville Road interchange.

Council member Michael Williams said he echoed what many residents said. He also thought the issue of rezoning land south of Worthsville Road had already been resolved.

“I thought we were done at Graham Road — that we were done doing industrial south of Graham Road,” Williams said. “I remember that being told to me my first year on (the) council. I would like to see that commitment there too.”

Council members David Leske and Bradley Pendleton also said thought this issue had been decided. The city’s comprehensive plan needs to be respected as investors look at it to determine where to invest, regardless of the type of investment, Leske said.

“Investors look at comprehensive plans and are supposed to have some degree of certainty that they can rely upon on about how the land can be used in the future,” Lekse said. “If we as a council don’t uphold our comprehensive plan, we undermine investment in Greenwood.”

Pendleton said he and others have pledged to voters that the Worthsville Road interchange will be a gateway. He said building warehouses would not make it a gateway, but make it an extension of Main Street, he said.

“This is a matter of accountability by the city,” Pendleton said.

Council members were divided on the rezoning and ultimately could not take action on it because they could not reach a majority vote for or against with the eight members present. Council member Ron Bates was absent from the meeting.

Council member Ezra Hill joined Williams, Leske and Pendleton in voting against the rezoning.

Council member Linda Gibson, who had originally said the city shouldn’t have warehouses on Worthsville Road, said it was time to consider allowing the developments along the road because Johnson County created a tax incremental financing (TIF) district south of the area. The TIF was created by county officials last year.

Gibson, along with council members Mike Campbell, David Hopper and Drew Foster voted for the rezoning.