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April 2, 2014

Alley width leads to tabling of variance on housing project

Concerns center on fire truck access

TERRE HAUTE — A request for a zero lot-line setback for the Indiana State University housing project in the 500 block of Wabash Avenue has been tabled pending additional information.

The Terre Haute Board of Zoning Appeals tabled the variance presented by Adam Fischer and Tim Fears for Thompson Thrift and set an April 16 special session to revisit the issue.

Ryan Wickens of the Vigo County Area Plan Department offered a favorable recommendation to have a zero lot-line setback on the alley on the north side of the property. The plans for the development, which will have retail space on the ground floor and four levels of apartments to house 260 ISU students, includes having trash receptacles located inside the building, rather than in the alley area. Also, the downspouts from the building will run to a parking cutout area off the alley, within the U-shape of the building.

Wickens noted that no objections to the building plans had been submitted to his office before Wednesday, but adjoining property owner Ben Orman did appear at Wednesday’s board meeting to question the width of the alley and the loss of the 5-foot setback between the building and the alley.

Orman said he also had concerns about parking in the area because student residents will likely have cars, but the building is not required to provide parking for its residents.

Board President Steve Pontius raised a concern, however, that prompted the tabling of the request. He asked if the loss of the 5-foot setback in the alley would impede the ability of fire trucks to gain access to the back side of the building. The alley width currently ranges from 12 feet on its west end to about 18.6 feet wide on its east end.

“That concerns me greatly considering the number of people in there,” Pontius said of firetruck access.

Board member Jeff Ford agreed that he was also concerned that the city fire department had not weighed in on access in the alley.

Fears noted that the project is time-sensitive and a delay of one month until the next regular zoning board meeting could harm the construction timeline. The board agreed to have the fire truck access issue researched, as well as look into the parking concerns raised by Orman.

When contacted by the Tribune-Star about the alley width concern, Terre Haute Fire Chief Jeff Fisher said that a 12-foot wide alley is sufficient to allow fire truck access. He also said that only smaller fire trucks would be sent into an alley, and not the larger aerial ladder trucks.

Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or lisa.trigg@tribstar.com. Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.

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