Senior housing development still under review


City officials have taken hesitant steps to allow for the construction of affordable senior housing in Seymour on property that has been undergoing environmental cleanup for more than a decade.

Seymour City Council members recently voted 5-1 to move forward with requests made by developers of the proposed 64-unit Crossroads Senior Village for residents 55 and older.

The requests were to rezone the 2.2-acre site at 500 S. Poplar St., south of Schneck Medical Center, from R-1 (single family residential) to R-2 (multi-family residential) zoning, amend the city’s development plan to include the project, grant a tax abatement for the development and provide $50,000 for new sidewalks around the property.

Council President Jim Rebber cast the only dissenting vote and Councilman John Reinhart was absent from the July 9 meeting. The requests, in the form of ordinances, are scheduled to be voted on at Monday’s meeting at 7 p.m. at city hall.

All four items must be met for the project to be eligible for state housing tax credits. That application is due by July 30.

The property is owned by Farbur Investments but is in the process of being purchased by Ohio-based developer Jonesboro Investments Corp. The site was once the home of Seymour Woolen Mill and later Seymour Electronics.

Environmental investigations of the property began in 2006, when contaminants, including petroleum and chlorinated solvents, were discovered in the soil and later in the groundwater. Cleanup and remediation efforts have been ongoing ever since.

Rebber said he has concerns with drainage on the property and also about the city’s liability in regards to the environmental cleanup.

Tim Morgan, president of Jonesboro Investments Corp., presented details about the project to the council meeting. He first proposed the development in September of 2017.

The proposed site plan calls for a four-story building on the east side of the property with 24 one-bedroom units and 40 two-bedroom units. Designs include an outdoor gathering area for residents and 80 parking spots.

Rent costs are expected to be between $525 and $700 per unit, he said. The housing will be income based, so there is an income range that a tenant would have to be within to qualify.

By purchasing additional property just to the west, Morgan said a large storm water detention basin will be created to handle storm water runoff from the development.

Also, the city will need to vacate South Pine Street from Oak Street to Laurel Street, he added.

When questioned about the environmental cleanup efforts, Morgan said he and his company are “well-versed from a remediation standpoint,” and ultimately, it’s up to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management to approve the cleanup and subsequent use of the property.

Jonesboro Investments Corp. took on a similar project in Columbus by redeveloping the contaminated property that once was the site of the Golden Casting Foundry.

“We would need state approval on our remediation efforts to a residential standard,” Morgan said. “And it’s that level that would bear the most scrutiny from the state, obviously, to make sure that it is properly cleaned up.”

Rebber questioned whether the city could be sued if something happened as a result of the environmental issues because it had supported the project.

“That is what’s driving my hard-nosed questions,” he said. “I don’t want to see the city agree to becoming a partner in this, it not work, and we get sued.”

Morgan said an indemnity agreement could be drawn up to transfer the risk and hold the city harmless for the project.

City attorney Rodney Farrow said by approving the $50,000 financial commitment for sidewalks, the council would be spending money that’s not in the city’s budget.

“I think the council needs to consider that you’re the fiscal body of the city,” Farrow said. “Where’s the $50,000 come from?”

Mayor Craig Luedeman said the $50,000 is conditional on whether the project receives the state tax credits, which will be awarded prior to the end of the year.

If the project receives the state support, Morgan said the city’s contribution could be delayed until late 2020.

Farrow said it will depend on the city’s budget approval in 2019.

“You’re promising money that you don’t have and may not have,” he said. “I guess you’ll have a budget in 2019, but are you going to have $50,000 to spend on sidewalks for this project? I don’t know.”

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