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January 22, 2014

Plan Commission gives unfavorable recommendation to zoning request for Floyds Knobs apartments

Proposal for apartments in Floyds Knobs heads to Floyd County Commissioners

FLOYD COUNTY — The Floyds Knobs of 2014 looks much different than it did 30 years ago. Commercial development has exploded along U.S. 150 and more is expected as people migrate to the Knobs area.

However, for many who call the Knobs home, one thing is certain — they don’t want to see apartments included in that growth.

The Floyd County Plan Commission agreed with them on Wednesday, voting 6-1 to give an unfavorable recommendation to a proposed zoning request for an apartment complex in the 5000 block of Old Vincennes Road. The Floyd County Commissioners will have final say on the proposal. Plan commission member Don Loughmiller voted in favor of the request.

Residents sent a strong message on Wednesday night over and over as several spoke against the zoning request from Thieneman Group LLC to change the zoning of 19.42 acres of land from General Commercial to Multi-Family to allow for the construction of 152 apartments.

For more than three hours the plan commission listened to the majority of people who made up the standing-room only crowd at the Pine View Government Center speak against the change. As of press time, no decision had been made on the request by the plan commission.

Many residents said traffic in the Highlander Point area is already terrible, and adding more cars would make it a “nightmare.”  

“I’ve watched the Highlander Point area grow for the last 30 years and the biggest change has been traffic flow,” Tim Fentress said. “I am disappointed this was even being considered. This is not right. It should stay the way it is.”

Keith Mull, the attorney representing Concerned Citizens of Floyd County, said to change the zoning would be to go against the county’s comprehensive plan which was passed in 2006.

“Would you want this in your backyard?” Mull asked members of the plan commission. “Many of these people here tonight say they don’t want it in their backyard.”

A petition with more than 270 signatures against the requested zoning change was submitted to the plan commission by Mull.

“It’s important you preserve the rural character of this area. Why change now? The people have already spoken back in 2006,” Mull said. “The Floyd County Comprehensive Plan does constitute a promise on how to build a community. Just follow the plan. Don’t fail the people.”

However, Attorney John Kraft, who represents Don Thieneman, said apartments would bring less traffic to the area than building more commercial on the property. He also said the New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corp. has seen a decline of 492 students since 2009 and could handle more children.

The apartments would be built in 10 buildings which would be phased in and include 380 parking spaces. They would be rented for $900 to $1,000 a month.

Thieneman said he has constructed several developments in the area and has lived in Floyd County for 29 years. Some of his developments include Valley View Trace, Heritage Springs and Lafollette Station. He said affordable housing is needed in Floyd County. Carol Nelson, a certified urban planner, agrees.

“Some people can not afford to buy a house. We have to look at what are we doing to provide housing options for the people in the area,” Norton said.  

County Planner Don Lopp told the plan commission he would support the zoning change. He said multi-family would be compatible with the commercial already in the area. He said part of the comprehensive plan is to drive residential development toward the county’s gateway areas which include Highlander Point, County Line Road and Edwardsville/Georgetown. He said prior plans in 1982 and 1992 agreed high density development should take place in the area since the infrastructure is already there. He said that prevents scattered development.

Since the area is already designated general commercial, practically any business could be constructed on the property including large or small retail, restaurants or banquet halls.

The Floyd County Commissioners are expected to discuss the zoning request at its Feb. 4 meeting.

 

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Amy Harpenau is the new director of theater arts at New Albany High School. Harpenau is a 2007 graduate of Floyd Central High School, has appeared on stage at both high schools and worked in theaters since she graduated college.

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