IDEM denies wetlands permit for southside industrial park

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management denied a permit to build a 45-acre industrial park at County Line Road and Arlington Avenue.

The permit was one of the last hurdles developers had to jump through to break ground.

Gershman Partners and Citimark planned to build a $175 million industrial park to span the northside of County Line Road from Arlington Avenue to Interstate 65. The development would have five industrial buildings totaling about two million square feet, space for restaurants and retail and 5 acres of wetland and park space.

IDEM denied the permit due to a lack of a buyer for the proposed warehouse, existing availability of vacant warehouses nearby and the submission of two different plans — both with varying degrees of impacts on wetlands.

Due to those reasons, IDEM denied the permit because “the application has failed to sufficiently demonstrate that the proposed wetland activity is without a reasonable alternative,” in accordance with Indiana Code, documents show.

More than 2,300 people signed a letter addressed to IDEM asking them to deny the permit in January.

A public hearing was held in April where more than 50 people showed up to express concerns that the development could increase flooding, impact water quality and destroy wildlife habitats. Concerns about the amount of warehousing available nearby was also brought up at the public hearing.

The permit was to deposit 400 cubic yards of gravel, stones and clean earthen fill to .244 acre of Class III isolated wetlands, the only classification of wetlands that still has state protections.

Indiana wetland protection has steadily reduced in recent years due to state and federal legislation. Indiana passed SEA 389 in 2021 that cut protections for many of the class II wetlands. Then in 2023, a U.S. Supreme Court on Sackett v. EPA removed protection for wetlands that did not maintain a surface connection with other bodies of water. This year, state legislators fast-tracked a controversial wetlands bill that reduced protections for class III wetlands even further.

The developer proposed to purchase 0.610 acres of wetland credits from the Upper White service area, which stretches from Martinsville to Muncie through the Indiana Stream and Wetland Mitigation Program, or INSQMP.

The INSQMP allows developers the option to purchase stream and/or wetland mitigation credits for permitted impacts authorized under the Clean Water Act.

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources program sells “advance credits” to developers who purchase them instead of performing mitigation themselves. Before the in-lieu fee program was established, developers were required to restore aquatic resources at or near the project site using an approved mitigation bank.

The credits would have allowed developers to destroy wetlands on the southside location and purchase “credits” to mitigate the removal anywhere in the Upper White River service area. Many residents expressed concerns about the mitigation program at the public hearing in April.

The Hoosier Environmental Council said they couldn’t be more pleased when the decision.

Developers have 15 days to file a challenge to the denial.