The county commissioners on Tuesday did not hear a highly-contested petition to change the zoning of a piece of property on Hillcrest Road.
Instead, according to the petitioners’ legal counsel, the request has been withdrawn entirely.
Initially, the request to change the zoning on a piece of property on Hillcrest Road, one right across from the park, that serves as a complement to Vincennes Autoplex, 2811 N. Sixth St., was rescheduled from Tuesday to Dec. 6 due to a simple scheduling conflict, but on Tuesday afternoon, Katie Kotter with HartBell LLC, representing the petitioners, said they had decided to withdraw their request that the property be rezoned as C3 commercial altogether.
Kotter did not indicate that there would be a change in the way the property is currently being used — which is as a repair shop and overrun to the dealership — only that they would not be pursuing the rezoning after all.
It would now be up to the Area Plan Commission to pursue the matter further, should its members choose to do so.
Hillcrest Road-area residents earlier this month went toe-to-toe with the local business owner about the proposed zoning change.
Members of the county’s Area Plan Commission took up the request filed by Terry Webb, the current owner of a pair of lots on Hillcrest Road, a property that’s been used by Vincennes Autoplex, a used car dealership, for more than 20 years.
Aaron Schnelle, who was also listed as a petitioner, owns Vincennes Autoplex, having purchased it from Webb just a couple years ago, and he was looking to buy the property on Hillcrest Road, too.
But as the sale moved forward, it was discovered that the property is actually zoned as residential, not commercial, hence the request for the zoning change.
Residents, however, filled the meeting space at the city’s Drinking Water Plant in protest during the APC meeting, most of them saying they’d grown weary of how much it had grown in recent years, particularly with heavy traffic allegedly going in and out of the shop on a daily basis.
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At least one neighbor had reportedly circulated a petition against the zoning change — one filed with APC members and which as many as 90% of those living nearby have signed.
Yet the property has been serving a local business now for more than two decades, and Schnelle, in addressing the commission, said he had no plans to expand, only to maintain what is there. Too, he said he had plans to install a privacy fence, one to better obstruct what neighbors may find intrusive or unappealing.
And he dismissed rumors of alleged crime or break-ins, saying there hadn’t been any thefts on the property, not to his knowledge.
Colt Michaels, executive director of the APC, said a permit for the construction of the initial shop was issued to the previous owner Rick Burnett, back in 1989; it was expanded in 1994.
It was only permitted to be a private residential garage, so a business operating there, regardless of how long, has always been in violation of local zoning laws.
In the end, APC members sided with the upset residents, voting unanimously to give the request an unfavorable recommendation.
APC members expressed concern about the requested C3 zoning, the most lenient of commercial designations, which would allow for anything from a convenience store to a fast food restaurant and even big box retail.
The ultimate decision would then have been up to the commissioners on whether or not to grant the zoning change, although they have a long history of weighing heavily the APC’s recommendations on such matters.
Michaels said previously that the APC could issue a cease and desist, but such drastic action would require additional research and direction on behalf of the commission’s legal counsel.
Fines, too, could be levied against the owner for being in violation of the county’s zoning laws.