News From Terre Haute, Indiana

December 6, 2012

Commission hears 5 requests for ‘mine overlays’

Arthur Foulkes
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Vigo County’s oil boom continued to echo Wednesday night at the monthly meeting of the county’s Area Plan Commission.

The plan commissioners, who hear all requests for zoning changes in the county, were given a total of five requests from property owners seeking “mining overlays” for their properties. Such overlays must be granted in Vigo County before exploring for oil, natural gas or other resources can begin.

The first overlay request was from Frank and Alma Watson for a 48-acre piece of agricultural land in Prairie Creek Township. Three or four people living near the proposed drilling site attended the meeting and spoke in opposition to the overlay. They expressed concern about their property values, possible odors, traffic, ground water contamination and quality of life.

“We love the scenery down there,” said Randy Lampropoulos, who owns a small farm near the proposed overlay. “I don’t want this to happen.”

Lou Britton, a Terre Haute attorney, represented the Watsons and said the property has been leased by Riverside Petroleum of Traverse City, Mich. In fact, all five requests before the commissioners were for properties leased to that company, he said.

The state of Indiana monitors how wells are drilled to ensure safety and quality, Britton said.

Jeremy Weir, executive director of the Area Planning Department, which is the county department that handles rezoning requests, noted that state law favors allowing property owners access to minerals under their property. The plan commission is limited in its authority and can only impose some restrictions on a drilling operation, he said.

If the county denies property owners the right to explore for minerals on their land, that would be considered a “taking” of their property, Weir said. A property owner could challenge that in court and “we’d lose,” he said.

The plan commission, of which 11 members were present, voted 10 to 1 to give a favorable recommendation for the Watson’s overlay to the Vigo County Commissioners. Commissioner Todd Nation, who represents the Terre Haute City Council on the commission, voted against the favorable recommendation.

In other action:

n The commissioners also voted 10 to 1 to give a favorable recommendation to a request from NEW Interstate Concrete, Inc. that will allow the company to build a ready-mix concrete plant on East Margaret Avenue not far from Turner Coaches and the Kensington subdivision. Charles Beckwith of Turner Coaches spoke in opposition to the rezoning request, saying the concrete plant currently creates significant dust. Nation opposed the favorable recommendation.

n Finally, the commissioners voted unanimously to give a favorable recommendation to a request from Mainstreet Terre Haute, LLC for a rezoning request that will allow for construction of a senior care facility at the site of Memorial Park on Eighth Avenue near Union Hospital.

Mainstreet is seeking to build a 70-bed, 53,000-square foot senior care center, said Jason Miller, who represented the company. Mainstreet is also seeking a tax abatement for its multi-million dollar project from the Terre Haute City Council. The council is expected to discuss that request at its sunshine meeting at 6 p.m. today in City Hall.

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at (812) 231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@