To the editor:
In recent weeks there have been three front-page articles in the Daily Journal regarding the proposed sale of our properties on Sheek Road in Greenwood. We would like to address some important background information omitted in your articles.
Most cities the size of Greenwood create Comprehensive Land Use Plans to guide officials in the highest and best use of land within the city boundaries and areas outside current boundaries that might develop in the future. Greenwood prepared a new comprehensive plan in 2007.
It was created by a consulting firm with input and approval from the Greenwood planning department, plan commission and city council. When we listed the Sheek Road properties, our real estate brokers consulted the Greenwood Comprehensive Plan and the city planning staff to determine the city’s recommendation for use of our properties. That tract was clearly and specifically marked for multifamily development.
We were soon contacted by a well-known and highly regarded developer who has other apartment projects in Greenwood, as well as another multifamily project on a nearby tract. Over the past few months, the developer met with the Greenwood planning staff and coordinated plans for an apartment complex.
Knowing that they were planning a project that was specifically in line with the city’s land use plan, they spent considerable time and resources in preparing their plans.
A request to rezone the property for the exact use called for in Greenwood’s comprehensive plan was filed. It would require approval from the plan commission and the city council, the two bodies that had helped create the comprehensive plan in 2007.
In keeping with the goals of the comprehensive plan, the Greenwood planning staff wrote a highly favorable recommendation for the rezoning. It specifically addressed questions of property values of surrounding homeowners and increased traffic on Sheek Road resulting from the project.
Then, the Greenwood Plan Commission voted eight to one to deny the rezoning. There were a few remonstrators in the audience, including nearby landowners who had moved to the neighborhood after the comprehensive plan had been created but apparently were not aware of it. They mentioned traffic concerns and land values of nearby property, both of which had been addressed in the planning department’s favorable recommendation.
They also compared the proposed Greenwood apartments to a failed multifamily project at 38th Street and Emerson Avenue on the northeast side of Indianapolis, one of the high-crime areas of the city. However, the most amazing testimony against the rezoning came from the city development director, who oversees the planning staff, and one of his employees, both members of the same plan commission that had approved the comprehensive plan.
Something is amiss when a city prepares a plan for future development, allows a competent and highly regarded developer to spend time and money on plans for a project that fits exactly in the city’s plan, then without any warning or explanation denies rezoning for that project. Your article overlooked the most important element of this story.
A message was sent to real estate professionals, builders and developers that Greenwood doesn’t play by its own rules. As a result, developers and builders will think twice before committing to new projects that require rezoning in any area controlled by Greenwood. This change in direction without any official action or public discussion and input is not in Greenwood’s best interest and leaves the impression that the city is disorganized and unprofessional in its planning and development.
This property has belonged to the McClain family for well over 150 years. The development of the past several years has made it unsuitable for agriculture, and the rural atmosphere is long gone. The land is a useless liability unless it is sold, and now the city, which recently annexed the area, won’t even allow us to sell it.