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October 4, 2012

No guarantee Cobblestone will be rezoned

Planning Department director says construction resumes despite pending need for rezoning

TERRE HAUTE — Despite the lifting of a county “stop-work” order last week, Cobblestone Crossings, a southern Vigo County property development, must still be rezoned for future construction, a county official said Wednesday.

Jeremy Weir, director of the Vigo County Area Planning Department, which issued the official stop-work order to Cobblestone effective Sept. 13, said an alleged conflict of interest by a member of the county’s advisory planning board is grounds for requiring Cobblestone Crossings to seek new zoning approvals.

Every phase of the Cobblestone Crossings development will need to go before the Area Plan Commission and the Vigo County Commissioners for rezoning approval, he said.

In an Wednesday interview with the Tribune-Star, Weir said Cobblestone has elected to resume construction despite the pending need for rezoning.

“This is kind of an eyes wide open situation on their end in that there’s no guarantee that as this is re-heard that they’ll get the same [zoning] approvals that they did,” Weir said. However, active building permits have been issued to Cobblestone, meaning they have the right to resume construction since the stop-work order was lifted Sept. 25, he said.

Residents of the neighboring Woodgate subdivision have been battling against the Cobblestone Crossings development for several months. Woodgate residents object to two-story apartments at Cobblestone being constructed near Woodgate property lines. They also believe that some of the apartments are in violation of zoning rules.

In September, Norm Froderman, a member of the Area Plan Commission, an official county advisory body on zoning matters, admitted to a likely direct or indirect financial interest in Cobblestone. If that is the case, any zoning votes in which he took part on Cobblestone are called into question, Weir said.

At Wednesday night’s Area Plan Commission meeting, commission vice president John Hanley said his review of the Cobblestone situation led him to believe all votes taken by the commission concerning the development would be found “null and void” by a court due to the alleged conflict. Hanley also defended Weir’s handling of a critical decision in 2007 that allowed apartments to be constructed where an initial Cobblestone plan indicated single-family homes or condominiums would be built.

If representatives of Cobblestone Crossings seek rezoning approvals at the November Area Plan Commission meeting, they can expect Woodgate residents to also be at the meeting. Mike Poinsett, president of the neighborhood association fighting the apartments, said Woodgate residents will be in attendance next month.

Also Wednesday night, other Woodgate residents asked the commissioner to seek guarantees from Cobblestone that an eight-foot wall planned to divide their properties from the apartments be guaranteed by a bond and also built within a limited space of time.

“Forgive us, but we just don’t trust them anymore,” one resident said at the meeting.

Cobblestone representatives could not be reached Wednesday afternoon for comment.

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

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