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New Carlisle Farmland Sparedfor Now

by Stan Maddux

Published: Friday, June 26, 2020

Opponents of turning farmland into a huge industrial park outside New Carlisle have scored a victory, but the battle is not over.

The Area Plan Commission of St. Joseph County on June 16 voted against three requests to rezone more than 1,400 acres at the proposed Indiana Enterprise Center from agriculture to industrial use.

The commission felt the plans were not compatible with the surrounding land use.

Arguments from opponents of the proposed industrial park the past two years include loss of farmland, risk of polluting a major aquifer, adding traffic to S.R. 2 and spoiling the character of an area with long roots in agriculture.

Bill Schalliol, the St. Joseph County Economic Development director, said the decision by the Area Plan Commission against the rezoning requests from three private landowners is a just recommendation.

Final approval rests with the county council.

Schalliol said a land use committee that includes five members of the county council will take up the matter at its July 28 meeting.

A vote is expected by the county council on Aug.11.

"We're fairly comfortable the rezonings will be approved by the council

as we move forward," Schalliol said.

Schalliol said the case in support of rezoning the properties will be sharpened in the coming weeks to resolve any issues and provide answers to questions the committee and council might have on the rezoning proposals.

He said the proposed industrial use of the property is compatible with the surrounding area given their close proximity to the existing I/N Tek and I/N Kote steelmaking plants and Navistar.

Navistar is a proving grounds for passenger and other vehicles including buses, heavy trucks and those used by the military.

The property represented in the rezoning requests is adjacent to each of those companies.

"It really kind of fills in that middle of that donut if you will," Schalliol said.

Schalliol said the recommendation against the rezoning was a setback in the process, but the developer, after spending considerable time and money on the proposal, remains at the table.

The land sought for development is part of the proposed 7,800-acre industrial park also opposed by a lot of farmers in the area.

Dan Malicki has about 150 acres four miles from the location of the proposed site near the LaPorte County line.

Included in the plans for the industrial park is a rail spur connecting two existing rail lines so the park can be served by railcars from the west and south.

The rail lines would be connected by a line running through Malicki property.

Malicki said the county should try and develop areas where heavy industry once thrived in places like the south side of South Bend.

Schalliol said sites elsewhere in the county that can accommodate heavy industry especially in the cities, are scarce.

Other opponents to the plan include the St. Joseph County Open Space and Agricultural Alliance, which has an ongoing petition drive.

On its Facebook page, the group says its mission is to protect farmland and natural areas from development.

"Once a farm or natural area is turned into an industrial site, a residential neighborhood or a strip mall it can never be restored to its former condition," the group stated in one of its posts.

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