College Township rejects rezoning at Hilltop mobile home site

Neighbors concerned about a student housing project taking root at the former Hilltop Mobile Home Park breathed a collective sigh of relief Tuesday.

Township Council denied a rezoning request from Lafayette, Ind.-based developer Trinitas Ventures that asked for higher density housing at the former Hilltop site.

The 4-1 decision drew applause from a large crowd, many of them former Hilltop residents and neighbors concerned about increased congestion, who attended the special meeting Tuesday.

“This has been an emotional and concerning issue for just about everybody involved, including us sitting up at this table,” Council Chairman Dave Fryer said.

The statement may have felt especially true to the mobile home park residents who were told in September they had to move by February because the park’s owners were trying to sell the land.

At least one former resident, Matthew Rooke, expressed hope Tuesday that the vote was a step toward finding another buyer who would maintain the property as a mobile home park.

Council members, however, were far less optimistic about that possibility.

“This is heart-wrenching to everyone in this room to see that park go by the wayside,” Fryer said. “But life goes on and we have to deal with it. I just do not think I’m an optimist to this particular plot being returned to a mobile home park.”

Councilman Eric Bernier said it appears that a group of former Hilltop residents who were considering making a run at purchasing the land are no longer able to make that happen.

“It doesn’t look promising at this point,” he said.

Agreeing that some development is preferable to allowing the land to sit vacant, Township Council also moved forward Tuesday with the process that could determine what the site looks like the future.

Council voted to ask the Planning Commission to review a plan to rezone the site from its current mobile home park designation to one that allows for R1 residential, or single family dwellings, and R2 residential, which would include duplexes.

That plan differs from the one put forward by Trinitas in that it exudes R3 residential, or multi-family residences. Council members specifically cited the R3 component in their decision to turn down the company’s request Tuesday.

“Increased density for this particular location has a potential to bring more problems than benefits,” said Councilwoman Mary Shoemaker.

In its initial proposal, Trinitas wanted all the land to be rezoned to R3 to accommodate a 275- to 300-unit student housing complex. When that plan met with resistance, Trinitas modified its proposal to include a mix of R1, R2 and R3 zoning, but noted it would still be catering to the 18-to-26 age group.

“Last time I heard your report, this is totally different in it’s now called ‘Housing Affordability’ as opposed to ‘Student Housing’,” Fryer said. “I’m pleased to see the focus has changed, but not that much because you are still targeting that age group.”

Forrest Remick, the lone council member voting against a motion to deny the request outright, asked that the motion be tabled and that township staff and Trinitas officials be given more time to find a compromise. Trinitas officials also asked that the motion be tabled.

After the meeting, company spokesperson Travis Vencel declined comment on the decision and whether Trinitas would submit another rezoning request.

Owners Kenneth Mayes and his sister, Sharon Mayes, could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.