Rezoning of former Hilltop Mobile Home Park site may head back to the drawing board

jvanderk@centredaily.comOctober 2, 2013 

— After many months of discussions resulted in a rezoning proposal sent to public hearing, property owners at the site of the former Hilltop Mobile Home Park are requesting that the township start over.

Property owners Kenneth and Sharon Mayes and adjacent property owner Rodney Hendricks both submitted letters to the township in the last week stating they will work with staff on a new zoning proposal and are asking the Township Council to cancel the planned public hearing.

The issue is on the council’s agenda for Thursday night.

The council voted 3-2 earlier this month to send a combination R1 and R2 residential proposal to a public hearing in November. The site is zoned only for mobile home parks, and the proposal would allow single-family homes, duplexes, townhomes, places of assembly and schools.

How to zone the site has occupied township meetings since late 2012, when Lafayette, Ind.-based Trinitas Ventures asked to rezone the property to higher density R3 residential with a plan for an apartment complex for students.

Hilltop closed in February after the owners notified residents they planned to sell the property.

The council rejected the Trinitas request in June, which led to the discussions of and settling on a mix of R1 and R2 residential.

The Mayeses and Hendricks are proposing a mix of Gateway Commercial, R2 and Open Space districts. The commercial zone matches a strip of the same district along East College Avenue.

The Mayeses indicated in their letter that they no longer have an agreement with Trinitas to purchase the property.

“Trinitas has no property interest in our land,” they said.

Township officials said the request is expected to be submitted in November and that the property owners will work with Uni-Tec Consulting Engineers.

According to the township, as part of the request, the Mayeses will propose a 4.5 acre parcel below Cottonwood Avenue as open space, making connections to the township bike path and access points for Slab Cabin Run and the former Mitchell Farm property.

The Mayeses and Hendricks did not return calls for comment, nor did Travis Vencel, the Trinitas representative who has participated in rezoning conversations to this point.

Council Chairman Dave Fryer said he is “absolutely not” surprised at the new request. The day after the council’s last meeting, he said he learned Trinitas had withdrawn its interest.

“The action I would entertain and suggest to the rest of the council is that we cancel the public hearing, and I don’t know what action we’ll take on R1/R2, but maybe a motion to deny, pending the review and discussion of the new proposal,” he said. “I think that’s the best approach to take at this point.”

If that happens, the entire process starts over. A submitted proposal would shift back and forth between the Planning Commission and council until it is approved for public hearing and, potentially, final approval.

“It’s a little unusual to constantly be changing the rezoning request,” said planner Mark Holdren. “But certainly there’s a lot of extenuating circumstances up there — topography of the site, limited access of the site, the adjoining neighborhoods and nature preserve.

“In the end, I don’t think the developer and land owner were satisfied. And the township wasn’t really satisfied with the end result.”

However, Fryer doesn’t favor the anticipated new proposal as-is.

“I’m an R1 man,” he said. “I like the idea of open space, certainly.”

And Fryer doesn’t mind the time invested so far, saying it should start over and agreeing with Holdren’s observation that people were displeased with the rezoning proposal as it went forward.

Former Hilltop residents talked at length about their hope to buy the site themselves and attempt to keep the park open and, when that didn’t materialize, Centre Hills residents took up the fight to keep student housing off the site and keep the density low.

“The planning process has to kick in and say what is best for this area,” Fryer said. “I just know one thing: We can’t leave it the way it is.”

Jessica VanderKolk can be reached at 235-3910. Follow her on Twitter @jVanReporter.

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