A Word From Your NWI Green Party Chair - Joe Conn
A couple of years ago, the people of Hobart rallied against a proposed for-profit prison on the city's west side.
Developers of the prison touted the jobs and tax revenue the city would gain if their plan went through. The people of Hobart heard them, but asked themselves, "Jobs and tax base, yes, but at what cost?"
Concerned citizens weighed the alleged benefits against the stigma a prison would bring to our community, imagined a better use for the land, rallied against the prison project, fought it off, and now, thanks to those far-thinking folks, there's a beautiful 40-acre park where a prison might have been.
Today, the people of Hobart are confronted with another, poorly thought through plan, this time for property at the southeast corner of 61st Avenue and Colorado St. Far-thinking folks in Hobart, you need to rally again. An industrial developer, Becknell, wants to pave over or build six giant, concrete warehouses on much of 157 acres of productive farm land there.
Becknell is also touting jobs and tax base growth.
But we, as a community, need to ask again, "At what cost?"
To build their parking lots and warehouses, the developer is asking the city to re-zone the property to M-1, light manufacturing.
Becknell is also asking city residents to put up with, by their estimate, 200 to 300 trucks a day -- but that's likely to be 400 to 600 truck TRIPS per day in and out of its proposed industrial complex.
At the City Council meeting May 4, even Mayor Brian Snedicor, a champion of development, spoke against the Becknell project, saying our infrastructure -- that is, our sewers, roads, bridges and intersections -- simply aren't ready to handle it at this time.
And, it's not just that corner and its 157 acres we're talking about.
A document, the city's "comprehensive plan," formerly known as the "master plan," contains a rough map with proposed zoning areas for the city.
The master plan in effect in 2015 called for just 60 acres of industrially zoned land in the area -- all in a parcel of land facing Mississippi Street more than a mile to the west.
But that master plan map was revised in 2016 and remains in effect today. It calls for calls for re-zoning a whopping 660 acres for industrial development.
Much of that is in an area of about 460 acres of farmland that stretches for a mile east of Colorado Street and a mile south of 61st, to and, in some places, beyond the railroad tracks.
The 2016 revised master plan map similarly targets for industrial "development" multiple parcels -- mostly farmland -- west of Colorado St. and north of the tracks totaling about 200 acres.
Together, based on the Becknell ratio of roughly 25 acres per warehouse, the 660-acrea area could be transformed into a vast industrial "park" of 25 or so ugly boxes whose towering, concrete walls more than one neighbor has likened to those of a prison.
Only these 25 industrial boxes -- at the Becknell rate of truck traffic -- could generate as many as 2,100 truck trips per day.
This is a master plan for a bleak Hobart.
Like the defeated for-profit prison plan, it lacks foresight and imagination.
This first 157-acre project, the Becknell re-zone request, is the first step down a wrong path. It should be opposed immediately.
Becknell should do the right thing, faced with the overwhelming opposition of the community and the inadequacy of the city's basic infrastructure, and withdraw its proposal.
In addition, the City Council should take this proposal off the table and kill it -- dead -- just as the for-profit prison plan before it was terminated. Council members must act before July 20, or else, by quirk of state law, the Plan Commission recommendation for a re-zone to M-1 would go into effect without a council vote.
Once that's done, all of the proposed industrial zoning in the master plan should be carefully revisited.
Of course we need jobs.
Of course we need a tax base.
But at what cost?
This proposed, massive industrialization of our largest remaining blocks of agricultural land is the wrong path to get there.
Time is short, but we still have time to turn back this terrible intrusion.
If you want more information, please go to our Facebook page, No Re-Zone @HobartIsOurHome.