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September 1, 2013

Cobblestone Crossings faces more bumpy road to final phase approval

Neighbors want longer wall, improved water drainage

TERRE HAUTE — Cobblestone Crossings, a south-side commercial and residential development, is seeking approval for what may be the last leg of its sometimes controversial growth.

The Vigo County Area Plan Commission, which meets at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Vigo County Annex, will hear a request from Cobblestone to allow it to move forward with perhaps the final major phase of its construction. If approved, the plan calls for building about one dozen new, two-story apartment buildings on about 13 acres of land.

But, as with other recent development at Cobblestone, this portion of the project is meeting some resistance from adjacent property owners. And at least some of them are expected at the upcoming plan commission meeting to voice their concerns.

The wall

Last year, residents of the Woodgate subdivision, which is adjacent to Cobblestone, demanded – and got – the construction of a masonry wall, 8 feet in height, placed as a buffer between several newly built apartment buildings and their neighborhood. At this week’s meeting, Stacy Gough, a real estate professional and resident of Viscaya Point subdivision, which is also adjacent to Cobblestone, plans to ask that the wall be extended to provide a buffer for her neighborhood, also.

“I want the wall,” Gough said in an interview Thursday in her back yard, which will be about 75 feet from one of the planned new apartment buildings. The wall will help provide security, privacy and protection for her home’s value and that of her neighbors, she said.

The lengthy wall, currently outlining the north and east sides of Cobblestone’s rear residential section, is an “L” shape. Gough would like it to become U-shaped, increasing the length of the wall by about one-third and creating a more substantial buffer between her property and new apartments.

Gough also believes water runoff from the existing buffer, a berm with some young trees planted on it, has damaged her property. She would like Cobblestone to place a stormwater retention pond on the development’s southeast corner to prevent what she believes would be more damage in the future.

Other residents of Viscaya Point are expected to attend this week’s meeting, Gough said, adding she hopes residents of Woodgate will take up her neighborhood’s cause after she spoke on their behalf last year. Three Viscaya Point residences share a property line with Cobblestone Crossings.

Floodwaters

Meanwhile, in Woodgate, a few families are also expected at the meeting. They are concerned about flood water damage that affected their properties this summer, said one resident who wished to remain anonymous. They hired a Farmersburg company to attempt to determine the source of the stormwater, but the results were inconclusive, he said. However, one of the three potential sources of runoff was from Cobblestone, he said.

These Woodgate residents have reached an agreement with Cobblestone that, once carried out, would stop potential stormwater runoff from flowing from the development to their nearby homes, the source told the Tribune-Star.

“We have been working with the developers,” he said. “We feel that we can make better progress by working with the developer than trying this in the court of public opinion.”

Mike Bireley, a key official with Cobblestone Crossings, stated he wished to consult with another key director, Jimm Nidlinger, after receiving an interview request Thursday from the Tribune-Star. They had not responded to the request by late Friday.

“Favorable”

recommendation

Because the current zoning for Cobblestone’s property, multi-family residential, will permit the construction of two-story apartments, the developers only need to seek approval for their final plans this week with the plan commission. If rezoning were required, the Vigo County Commissioners, an elected body, would make the final determination.

While the decision rests with the plan commission, the professional staff of the Vigo County Area Planning Department has done much of the pre-meeting leg work. As with all the cases that come before them, the staff must consult with a half-dozen or more government agencies and look at relevant subdivision, zoning and comprehensive plan documents before making a final recommendation.

“It’s a significant process,” said Darren Maher, assistant director of the Area Planning Department. The professional staff must consult with surveyors, the Health Department, soil and water conservation officials, the Sanitary District, firefighters, the airport and even the Federal Emergency Management Agency flood plane analysis, he said.

“We’ve got all these layers to look at,” Maher said.

In the case of this latest phase of Cobblestone’s development, the professional staff has given a favorable recommendation, Maher said. However, that is on the condition that Cobblestone obtain an approved drainage and erosion control plan designed for a 100-year flood event. It also must guarantee the project’s infrastructure and buffer plans with bonds valued at 110 percent of the estimated costs, he said.

Cobblestone’s current zoning classification permits a certain level of “density” of housing units per acre. The development is well within those limits, Maher said. In addition, Cobblestone will be building its new apartments, in most cases, 75 feet from the property lines of its neighbors in Viscaya Point, a greater distance than the apartments adjacent to Woodgate. The zoning ordinance requires just 25 feet. One building is planned to be 50 feet from the property line, according to the plans presented to the Area Planning Department and the plan commission.

Despite the favorable staff recommendation, the plan commission members are free to deny, if they wish, Cobblestone’s request. They are charged with weighing all the relevant factors, including the staff findings, the county’s comprehensive plan and the interests of other property owners, Maher said, adding that commission meetings are also an avenue through which members of the public can make their feelings known. That seems likely to happen once again this week.

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@trib star.com

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