Neighbors voice concerns as Brownsburg looks to open farmland for industrial use

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HENDRICKS COUNTY, Ind. — Some people living in Hendricks County along County Road 400 and the neighborhood nearby are worried about the future of their community as the Brownsburg Town Council looks to make 50 acres of farmland open for industrial business.

“Our focus is on our livelihood. Their focus is on tax revenue,” said Carlos Becerra, who has lived with his wife in their home across from the farmland for more than 30 years.

Right now, a change in zoning has been brought before the town council. Currently, the parcel of land has been zoned for multi-family use, but Brian Jessen, the Brownsburg Town Council vice president, and others want to see it used for an industrial warehouse.

“The good of the many should outweigh the good of the few, in this case,” Jessen said.

If the zoning change were approved, the plan is to put a 500,000-square-foot warehouse on the property.

Jessen said the town is in need of more commercial and industrial development like this.

”We’re trying to make sure Brownsburg has a strong tax base to take us into the next century,” he said.

Jessen said right now, the Brownsburg tax base is about 70% residential and 30% commercial. He said more commercial and industrial land will generate more tax revenue for the town.

But some people living near and on County Road 400 said developments like the one proposed will directly effect their quality of life.

”The evaluation of the home is going to go way down, way down,” said Becerra.

”The traffic will be insane,” said Pam Sheads, who lives about 600 feet from the potential warehouse land.

Becerra, Sheads and a few other neighbors shared several concerns like more semitruck traffic, the inability of County Road 400 to handle this, how this could increase car accidents at the intersection up the road and more.

Sheads said they’re hoping to share these concerns with the Brownsburg Town Council at the next meeting, but last time, her group was limited.

”They allowed only two speakers. That is totally against public input,” Sheads said. “We need to have our voices heard, and they need to matter.”

Jessen said the council limited the group to two speakers and allowed the rest of the group to sign a petition acknowledging their opposition to the zoning change. He explained that they made this decision for a couple reasons. First, they had multiple items on the agenda and didn’t want the zoning issue to take up too much time. Second, he said people opposed to the change already had a chance to express their opposition at a past planning commission meeting.

”We weren’t going to drag out the meeting for a long process just to hear the same 12 people that spoke at the planning commission level come up and speak to the council and say the same things,” Jessen said.

But Sheads said they had several different points planned and none of their speakers were going to be repetitive. She said she hopes they’ll get the opportunity to voice all of their concerns at the next town council meeting.

Sheads and other neighbors said things like this have led them to feel like the Browsnburg Town Council is not listening to what they are saying.

”I’m just hoping they’ll consider what we’re saying instead of what we feel like they’ve been doing, which is just pandering to us just enough to be able to say, ‘Oh, we’ve listened to their position,’ and then doing what they want,” said Scott Spencer, who lives with his family less than a mile from the proposed industrial land.

Jessen said they’re working to listen and answer the concerns of the people who are upset about this possible change, but it is worth noting that people on the other side of County Road 400 are not technically Brownsburg residents.

“They have Brownsburg addresses, they consider themselves part of the community,” Jessen said. “We consider them to be part of the community, but the bottom line is I have 29,000 people I am responsible to for bringing in commercial development to help balance the tax base.”

Jessen said he believes the effects of a potential warehouse on County Road 400 will not be as bad as people think.

”There are a lot of towns that have been able to balance out the creation of industrial areas, commercial areas next to residential areas,” Jessen said “Their home values did not suffer as much as they claimed they would. I’ve talked to appraisers that have made the same comment that based on how this is zoned and how well it’s buffered, that they should be alright.”

But Sheads and others disagree.

”Residential and industry are not compatible. It needs to be denied,” she said.

Jessen said the city is already planning how to help bring the surrounding infrastructure up to speed.

”The town has already been planning for the necessary improvements to that road, the widening that will have to be done, the utilities that will have to come out that way,” he said. “We know there are improvements that have to happen out in that area, and we’re prepared for it.”

But Becerra is hoping they will reconsider.

”We’re hoping they’ll reconsider commercial or multi-residential,” Becerra said.

Jessen said he knows change can be difficult, but this is necessary.

”Some of the people that live in and around Brownsburg are afraid of change,” he said “They don’t want to see these types of things coming in because they are used to being able to be this way. I can respect that, I understand that. It’s a small town, and they want it to stay that way, but we have to keep up with the times.”

Sheads, Becerra and Spencer all agree they aren’t against development on the land, they just don’t think a 500,000-square-foot warehouse is a good fit for the area.

”We know development is coming, we’re not opposed to it as such, we’re not even opposed to industrial. We’re just imposed to what they’re doing right now, the level they’re doing it at and and the sites they’re proposing it at,” expressed Spencer.

Jessen is hoping people will be more accepting to this growth.

”They need to be open-minded to the fact of what it’s doing for the community, how everyone is going to benefit from this development, including them,” Jessen said.

Sheads, on the other hand, has a warning for people in Brownsburg.

”Beware, all of Brownsburg, because anywhere there is an open parcel near your neighborhood, beware, because industrial is coming to a place near you,” she said.

The next Brownsburg Town Council meeting is Thursday, Sept. 23. Jessen said the choice of rezoning the land for industrial use is now up to the council, and he expects it to happen in the next month and a half.

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