New Albany’s Plan Commission stalled a proposal to build homes and businesses on 64 acres north of Fawcett Hill Road at a Tuesday night meeting, as the panel’s advisers recommended that a less dense development would stand a better chance of approval.

Countering officials’ concerns, attorney Greg Fifer suggested his clients, Pat and Pam Kelley, would be willing to build only a small portion of the Summit Springs project until they could help the city acquire federal grants and improve the intersection of State Street and Daisy Lane, the expected conduit of most development traffic.

The developers and planning officials are expected to meet early next week to discuss tweaking and elaborating the site plans before the issue returns to the commission’s plate Dec. 19. Stormwater drainage paths, fragile soil on steep slopes and increased traffic headline the list of concerns officials have raised and the developers have promised to address.

Chief Planner Scott Wood told the commission that “I think if the density comes down, it becomes a more approvable plan.” Fifer said after the meeting that he thought planning officials had looked favorably on a density lower than had been proposed before.

Commission Vice President Jason Emly seemed loath to consider the project at all, given the lack of existing funds to upgrade the State and Daisy intersection.

“As a public official, how do you approve a project based on mythical funding?” Emly asked.

Project traffic engineer Mark Adams replied that the intersection needs an overhaul “even if nothing is done on this site.”

Planning director John Rosenbarger expressed his reservations about needing to see more details about the project’s benefits, but he noted that in a tax-increment fund area, where businesses’ tax payments are used to improve infrastructure in the neighborhood, “development typically is the lever this community looks for to solve these kinds of problems.”

Nearby residents spoke out to oppose the project for changing the character of their neighborhood. Becky Gardenour worried that the hilltop development would be the first thing people notice about New Albany when crossing the Sherman Minton Bridge.

“To me, that’s going to be the new downtown,” Gardenour told the commission. “You all are here to protect our homes and the value of our homes.”

Bill Lacey hadn’t planned on speaking until he heard discussions about giving east-west traffic a 10-second-longer green light at State Street and Daisy Lane. If State Street green lights are shorter as a result, Lacey predicted, southbound traffic could back up all the way to the off-ramp of Interstate 265.

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